7 Ways Businesses Benefit from Robotics & Automation Today

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7 Ways Businesses Benefit from Robotics & Automation Today

#HowToRobot -
Editorial team
Automation and robotics provide a range of competitive advantages – from higher productivity to a better working environment. Understanding these benefits is key to deciding what to automate.

The adoption of robots and automation continues to spread across all sectors, with global robot installations expected to reach a yearly growth of 7% in the coming years.  

With robot and automation technology becoming more accessible and advanced, many organizations are automating repetitive aspects of their work, leading to significant transformations in their business.

Although the reasons to automate vary from business to business, the potential benefits are many and often depend on each individual application. Based on the large number of automation projects globally facilitated through HowToRobot’s platform, we can see how especially labor shortages and the need to increase productivity are among the most common motivations for businesses to automate. However, many other areas also have priority when automating, from creating a better working environment to getting a more consistent product quality.

This article explores the primary motivations driving organizations to integrate automation into their operations and why having an overview of business-wide automation opportunities is key to reaping these benefits.

Covered in this article:

  1. Freeing staff to take on higher-value tasks
  2. Increasing productivity
  3. Improving working environment
  4. Enhancing product quality
  5. Increasing capacity
  6. Improving data collection
  7. Sustainability and environmental impact
  8. How to identify the biggest automation opportunities and benefits
Automation objectives in 2023 - HowToRobot
The most common objectives for automating in 2023 range from freeing staff, to taking on more value-adding tasks, to improving working environment according to data from HowToRobot.
  1. Freeing staff to take on higher-value tasks

One of the biggest long-term challenges facing businesses in manufacturing and many other sectors is the shortage of labor. Aging – and shrinking – populations are, among other factors, making access to workers increasingly competitive among businesses, leaving many with automation as a growing necessity. In the U.S. manufacturing industry alone, the labor shortages could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030 according to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

Businesses increasingly see robotics and automation as a means to overcome those labor shortages. By automating the most repetitive and strenuous tasks, companies can free existing workers to take on more value-adding tasks, including some of the unfilled positions. In 2023, this objective drove a staggering 80% of automation projects globally tracked by HowToRobot. This highlights automation’s major contribution to addressing labor shortages and debunking the myth of automation as a job killer. Without automation, a staff shortage can eventually lead to delays or cutbacks in production, ultimately impacting the business's bottom line. Depending on the size of this opportunity cost, investing in robotics and automation can be a financially sound decision, even in cases where an automated solution costs more than manual labor.

  1. Increasing productivity

One of the most compelling reasons for businesses to automate is the significant boost in productivity, leading to higher competitiveness. It is also among the top motivations for businesses to automate with a total of 71% of projects driven by this objective according to HowToRobot’s data.

Growing productivity means reducing the input required to produce something or increasing the output with the same input level – and automation and robotics can potentially do both.

When automation is implemented correctly, it can reduce the number of manual working hours needed to produce a given output. This benefit is often encountered when automating repetitive, high-volume tasks that are well-suited for commercialized robots and automation technology. But in high-mix, low-volume production environments, automation is also becoming increasingly relevant, as the technology can adapt flexibly to changing demands.

Additionally, automated systems can bring the advantage of operating continuously without breaks – allowing production lines and processes to run more smoothly, reducing downtime, and increasing output. Figuring out whether this can be achieved requires a broader view of the production line and not just the single process to be automated. Misapplying automation can also lead to further bottlenecks and reduce overall productivity. Furthermore, the total costs of implementing and operating automation solutions have to be accounted for to give a realistic reflection of their potential.

To accurately estimate where and how automation can boost productivity the most requires a deeper level of expertise in robotics and automation technology – either from in-house experts or external advisors.

  1. Improving working environment

By taking over repetitive, dangerous, and physically demanding tasks, automation can reduce the risk of workplace injuries and allow employees to focus on more value-adding and less strenuous activities, contributing to a safer and more efficient working environment. This shift can, in turn, lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. This is even more relevant today when worker expectations are high and businesses are short of staff. To accommodate this, automation is increasingly seen as a competitive advantage among employers and employees, as evidenced by a large number of automation projects in 2023.

Improving the working environment was a key objective for 31% of the automation projects tracked globally by HowToRobot that year. While this objective can be harder to quantify financially, it is nevertheless an important aspect of automation, driving a substantial part of technology investments.

  1. Enhancing product quality

Robots and machines designed to perform a specific task automatically can reach a high precision and consistency that is difficult to achieve with manual processes. By minimizing human error, automated systems can produce uniform-quality products, meeting stringent industry standards and customer expectations. This is often crucial in the manufacturing industry, for example, where even minor defects can lead to product failures and significant financial losses. 36% of all automation projects tracked by HowToRobot globally in 2023 sought to increase product quality.

However, achieving the extra level of precision and consistency also depends on the specific application and how well-suited the chosen technology is to meet those demands. Deciding on an application and finding and evaluating possible solutions will often require technical expertise and market knowledge in robotics and automation.

  1. Increasing capacity

Increased capacity is a significant advantage businesses gain from adopting robotics and automation. Automation may allow companies to handle larger production volumes efficiently, which is essential in meeting growing market demands and staying competitive. By streamlining and optimizing production processes, automated systems can operate continuously with minimal human intervention, thereby increasing throughput and reducing bottlenecks.

Moreover, automated systems can be scaled up or down based on the needs of the business, providing flexibility and responsiveness to market changes. This scalability is particularly beneficial during peak seasons or when there is a sudden surge in demand, especially during staffing shortages. According to HowToRobot’s data, increasing capacity was one of the key objectives for 61% of automation projects tracked globally in 2023.

  1. Enhancing data collection

Automation and robotics systems often come equipped with sensors and software that collect vast amounts of data during operations. This data can be invaluable for businesses, providing insights into production processes, identifying inefficiencies, and predicting maintenance needs before they become critical. By leveraging advanced analytics, companies can make data-driven decisions that enhance overall performance and productivity. Improved data collection helps monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), understand trends, and optimize resources effectively. This capability was a key objective for 15% of automation projects tracked globally by HowToRobot in 2023, highlighting automation’s relevance in operational optimization and strategic planning.

  1. Sustainability and environmental impact

Adopting automation can contribute to sustainability efforts and reduce environmental impact. Automated systems can optimize resource usage, minimize waste, and enhance energy efficiency. For instance, precision in automated processes can reduce material wastage and lower energy consumption by operating more efficiently than manual methods. Additionally, automation can facilitate the implementation of green manufacturing practices, such as recycling and efficient use of raw materials. While there is still limited data about how this agenda drives automation decisions today, the potential is significant in specific industries. In food manufacturing, for example, HowToRobot has found a significant, unexploited potential for reducing process-related food waste with robotics and automation.

How to identify the biggest automation opportunities and benefits

As businesses increasingly turn to automation, starting with a clear idea of why they are automating and what they hope to achieve is crucial. Often, companies have several needs they hope automation can solve, each with a different level of importance. Knowing where and how to apply automation to solve those needs most effectively can be challenging, as there are often various tradeoffs between the benefits, costs, and risks that must be weighed in. Having an overview of these factors is important to make an informed decision.

At HowToRobot, we’re seeing a growing interest among businesses in mapping out the facility-wide automation potential, creating an overview of every possible automation opportunity. This includes assessing the benefits of automation and the possible risks to effectively create a roadmap for automation connected to the overall business objectives.

Doing so helps businesses uncover new automation opportunities, evaluate their benefits and risks, and prioritize where to start. And – by considering the full spectrum of possible benefits from automation – they can better apply the technology where it will provide the greatest value.