Automation trend predictions for 2023

31 January 2023

Fernando Colás offers his predictions about automation trends for the coming year.

Manufacturing will continue to face many challenges this year and riding them out will involve building resilience and flexibility into business models. At the same time, companies must embrace emerging technologies – sensing, robotics, 5G and artificial intelligence – to help the solve the problems they face as a result of societal challenges.

Trend #1 Value for money: There is no escaping the fact that inflation will cause the cost of equipment and components to increase in 2023. Therefore, automation providers will need to focus on providing solutions that neutralise these cost increases by generating value for users. As an example, OMRON always offers a complete and connected solution, not just products. This is encapsulated our automation approach – which is how we generate value through our solutions. All our innovation is underpinned by the three ‘i’ pillars: integration (control evolution), intelligence (developing intelligence through ICT) and interaction (human-machine collaboration).

Trend #2 OpEx rather than CapEx investments: At the same time, many businesses are halting CapEx spending due to the economic climate. Inflation is always accompanied by a rise in interest rates, which means it will take longer for projects to yield a return on investment. However, businesses are aware that they still need to invest in automation to stay on top of their game, keep growing and drive efficiencies, which is contributing to a shift towards CapEx investment models. I believe this trend will gather pace in 2023 and leasing options that ease the capital investment burden will gain popularity for automation projects. 

Trend #3 Harmonised automation: Industrial automation has historically been viewed as a replacement for labour. With collaborative robotics and automation we are moving towards workers and machines working alongside one another. This will evolve into harmonised automation – an approach that will help businesses maximise human capabilities through people-oriented automation technologies. Accelerating data-driven operations through digitalisation will be key to this business transformation and people empowerment.” 

AI-assisted high-speed control, for example, will help less experienced workers to make better decisions. Building more harmonious and stronger relationships between people, machines and the environment will become the main target in automation. Harmonised automation solutions that improve productivity whilst reducing carbon footprint will be the way forward. 

Trend #4 Adapting to autonomous manufacturing: In the next few years we will see the transition from an ‘optimisation’ society, in which consumption is the main driver and quantity is valued more than quality, to an ‘autonomous’ society, which prioritises quality, sustainability and the development and wellbeing of the individual. This trend will play out in the manufacturing space as we move to ‘autonomous’ manufacturing. A decade ago, China was the factory of the world, mass consumption was the main driver for production and very little consideration was given to raw materials usage and the environment. Today, companies are transitioning away from this mindset towards an approach that prioritises sustainability, the development and wellbeing of the individual, and quality over quantity. Automation solutions will evolve to reflect this trend, helping manufacturers to achieve carbon neutrality, digitalisation and improved quality of life for staff. 

Trend #5 Insulation against supply chain instability: In 2022, the automation industry was caught out by a number of supply shocks, most notably the chip outage, and has been working hard to insulate against future supply chain disruption. 

Fernando Colás is CEO at OMRON Industrial Automation Europe.

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