Ash has spent close to 20 years in technology research on several sectors, including industrial automation and smart manufacturing, smart home, solar power and energy storage, drones and robotics, medical technology and building automation. Ash is Senior Research Director for our robotics & warehouse automation research, amongst other topics.
This March the US-based Association for Advanced Automation (A3) is running its annual trade show – Automate Forward – and conference as a virtual event. Here at Interact Analysis, we are proud to announce that we have been made A3’s official research partner. As a market intelligence company with a focus on automation, this is clearly right up our street. The results of our first research project for A3 examines the sentiments of companies throughout the automation value chain around current market conditions, as well as perceptions of future performance as we emerge into a post-pandemic world. Between mid-February and mid-March 2021, we surveyed 200 respondents from automation-related companies around the world with combined revenues of $50bn. The results are overwhelmingly positive – and I’ve used this insight to give you a quick taste of them. If this article is of interest, click the link at the end to access the full survey results.
Growth in excess of 10% anticipated for 2021
Robotics companies are set to lead the automation field with respondents expecting a 40% boom in employment in the sector in 2021 and revenue growth of nearly 50%. Furthermore, they expect their customers’ investment in their products to grow by more than 40% once the pandemic is under control. The average headcount growth expected by all automation companies is around 20%. Motion control and motor product vendors reported the lowest expected revenue and investment growth in 2021, but they still expect about 15%. The automation sector is set to be a leader in the COVID-recovery. There are clear reasons for this, the increase in eCommerce and online shopping is driving investment in warehouse automation as companies seek speed and efficiency in the distribution process. On top of this, manufacturing industries are also responding to the need to future-proof themselves against further global shocks. On the back of sentiment such as this, 63% of automation companies contacted by Interact Analysis expect investment in capacity or infrastructure to increase in 2021, as opposed to 5% who do not.
Automotive and food and beverage expected to be top drivers of growth
Respondents were asked to rank the largest end user growth drivers for their companies, and automotive and food & beverage were among the most common choices – accounting for over a third of responses. Automotive took up a full 40% of first choices for manufacturers of machine vision products.
Automated machinery producers clearly see signs of light at the end of the tunnel for the beleaguered vehicle industry. Not so other transportation sectors, however. Marine, rail and aerospace were chosen as among the 3 largest growth drivers by a mere 13% of respondents. These three sectors are clearly still in the grip of the COVID-19 effect.
Challenges on the road ahead
The different automation machinery sectors gave predictable responses when asked to name their 3 perceived biggest challenges. Restrictions on travel and seeing customers was named in nearly one third of cases. Being able to meet customer demand and, conversely, weak customer demand, were each mentioned in around 20% of cases. But, to end on an optimistic note, 93% of respondents project that by August 2022 COVID-19 will have minimal or zero impact on their industry.