ABB optimistic about continued robotics trends in 2023

Robot Business


ABB optimistic about continued robotics trends in 2023

Elías Lundström
Corporate Communication & Public Affairs

In a turbulent economy, the need for robotics and automation will still prevail due to labor shortages and other factors, says VP of Marketing and Sales, Business Line General Industry, ABB Robotics.

Signs of market contractions and recession fears in US and Europe shouldn’t be cause for alarm for the robotics industry according to Stefan Drakensjö, VP of Marketing and Sales, Business Line General Industry, ABB Robotics. 2023 presents opportunities for robotic automation:

“Fundamentally, robotics automation is continuing to be a big driver for companies to stay resilient. While each country is facing different situations, more companies are looking to robotic automation as a way of increasing flexibility, building resilience and making their operations more sustainable,” he says.

His overall outlook is that manufacturers globally are facing a range of macro trends that will make robotics and automation a growing necessity even in times of financial headwinds. The single biggest factor, he says, are the labor shortages.

“The impact of the labor shortages is widely felt and is likely going to continue. Many countries have aging populations and people are more reluctant to take on lower wage jobs. In response, the demand for robots is growing and will continue to do so for years,” says Stefan Drakensjö.

Reshoring will drive up demand for labor

The demand for robotics and automation is also expected to increase from businesses that bring production closer to home. In the US, this trend is especially pronounced. 70% of US businesses plan to reshore or nearshore production to address supply chain issues, a survey by ABB found last year.

A buildup of local production capacity, however, will also increase the demand for labor that is already scarce and therefore require further automation according to Stefan Drakensjö.

Some industries and professions are strongly impacted, such as the welding industry. In the US alone, the industry is expected to need an additional 360,000 welders by 2027 according to the American Welding Society.

In addition to the labor shortages, managing supply chain disruptions is key. These include logistics issues, and big fluctuations in prices from suppliers and demand from customers, according to Stefan Drakensjö. Again, robotics and automation are expected to be part of the solution. 43% of the businesses surveyed by ABB planned to use robotics and automation to build supply chain resilience.

“The need for resilience is big, especially after the pandemic. This means being able to tackle uncertainties and changes in demand, which is becoming easier with robots that are flexible enough to handle a variety of tasks,” Stefan Drakensjö says.

Robotics picking up in new industries

While the demand for robotics is expected to grow across most industries, some have better prospects than others. The manufacturing industries with the highest number of robot installations globally in 2021 were electronics (137,000 installations) followed by automotive (119,000), metal and machinery (64,000), plastic and chemical products (24,000), and food (15,000) according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

However, growth looks particularly promising in some of the industries where robots and automation are still relatively new according to Stefan Drakensjö.

These, he says, include:

  • Solar and wind industry: Demand for renewable energy is growing, and with production capacity increasing especially in Asia, so is the need for automation. These industries are automating a wide range of applications, with the solar industry especially focusing on automation of handling (silicon rods, etc.), machining and assembly.
  • Electric vehicle production: The automotive industry, including its sub-suppliers, is shifting focus to meet demand for electric vehicles, which creates a need for automation in new areas. This includes battery production, battery trays, new electronics, and many other areas.
  • Construction industry: 9 out of 10 construction businesses are expecting a skills crisis by 2030 according to a survey from ABB. While 55% of the companies surveyed currently use robots, 81% expect to introduce robots in the next 10 years. The potential for automation is huge in prefabrication according to Stefan Drakensjö, who mentions volumetric 3D-printing of wooden parts as an example. Using robotics on construction sites is also happening but to a lesser extent, he says.
  • Education: 80% of educational institutes worldwide believe robots will shape the future of employment in the next 10 years, yet only 25% use robots as part of their teaching program according to a survey by ABB. A shortage of skilled labor is driving the need for more education in robotics and the education industry is beginning to adapt according to Stefan Drakensjö.
  • Logistics: Global ecommerce is continuing its growth trajectory with sales expected to exceed $7 trillion in 2025, up from $4 trillion in 2020 according to eMarketer. This increases the need for automation in a range of areas, such as packaging and logistics, including mobile robots, in warehouses.