2021 is shaping up to be a year of technological innovation. After the widespread disruptions of 2020, many industries have learned where they fall short, and new technologies have emerged as an ideal solution. Automation is among the most promising.
Analysts expect the global automation market to generate around $214 billion this year, a $28 billion increase over 2019. Much of this growth comes from industries that have typically resisted automation finally embracing it. Sectors like manufacturing have been longtime supporters of the technology, but now, others are realizing it could benefit them, too.
Here are five industries that are starting to embrace automation this year.
Warehousing and Logistics
As e-commerce has skyrocketed, warehousing and logistics companies have faced increasing pressure to become more agile. At the same time, unfilled positions in the industry are close to a 20-year high, leaving businesses unable to meet rising demand. Automation stands as a solution to this problem.
Virtually every part of the warehousing and logistics industry can benefit from automation. Automated material handlers can improve picking efficiency as process tools optimize workflows in the warehouse. Autonomous vehicles and drones can assist in last-mile deliveries, saving drivers time. As more logistics companies recognize these options and understand their needs, more will embrace technology.
Few industries have seen as much disruption and demand in the past year as health care. As hospitals grew overcrowded and medical staff was stretched thin, the medical industry’s need to transform became painfully evident. This year, healthcare organizations will allocate more resources toward automation to alleviate pressure and become more efficient.
With some options delivering up to 98.2% uptime, automated medical devices minimize human error while maximizing efficiency. In an industry as time-sensitive and complex as health care, these benefits are hard to ignore. Combined with a growing labor shortage, these advantages are pushing facilities to automate more this year.
To many, the concept of self-driving vehicles may seem more like science fiction than reality. While it may still be several years before fully autonomous cars populate the roads, transportation is fully embracing automation. In 2019, a train completed a 48-mile journey with no human intervention.
The hype around fully self-driving cars has died down, but there’s been a recent emphasis on autonomous public transport. Fixed routes make automating vehicles easier, and the need for safe, efficient transportation keeps growing with increased urbanization. Public transport’s potential for automation will renew interest in autonomous transportation in 2021, driving innovation and adoption.
Retail typically isn’t an industry that comes to mind when people think of automation. That’s starting to change as struggling retailers have turned to automation to reduce costs and enhance customer experiences. Now, experts predict the retail automation market will be worth $18.99 billion by 2023, almost double what it was in 2017.
Robotic process automation (RPA), which automates routine tasks like filing paperwork and scheduling, has become increasingly popular among retailers. Many e-commerce sites now use chatbots to provide 24/7 support to customers. Newer technologies have enabled retail automation to reach new heights, like Amazon Go’s automatic checkout process.
The hospitality industry took a hit in the past year, but it can rebound with automation’s help. Many hotels, like retailers, are now embracing automated scheduling solutions for housekeeping and maintenance staff to improve productivity. Home automation technology, like lights and locks, is also making more appearances in hotels.
Customer-facing automation services can help guests book trips and stays with minimal effort and time. Fully autonomous cleaning robots, which gained popularity amid the pandemic, will likely see further implementation. As post-COVID travel begins to ramp up, more hotels will embrace automation to entice customers and maximize profitability.
Automation Is Reaching New Heights
As technology advances, automation can now accomplish more, making it a viable tool for more use cases. These advancements, along with heightened demand, have led to automation appearing in industries where it rarely has before. These five sectors are just a sampling of the industries that are now embracing it.
Businesses across various sectors have come to understand that those that don’t innovate quickly fall behind. Digital transformation has become the norm, and automation is a growing part of that trend. Automation is changing the way entire industries operate, and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.