Among the world’s working class, a fear persists that advanced robotics technology exists to make human labor redundant. That so far does not seem to be the case. In fact, increased spending on robotics technologies now coincides with historical labor shortages. This seems to indicate that corporations spend money on robots when humans prove too unwilling or imprecise for the job in question.
Research compiled by Statista anticipates robust growth in the industrial robotics industry. Total spending on robotic system integration should reach $66.9 billion by 2025, split among four broad investment areas:
- Industrial robotics – $24.4 billion
- Commercial robotics – $17.0 billion
- Military robotics – $16.5 billion
- Personal robotics – $9.0 billion
Is robotics a good investment? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” But unpacking the utility and ROI (return on investment) of ROI requires breaking down the available investment opportunities between company investments – made for the long-term betterment of an organization – and personal investments, made for the enrichment of individual portfolios.
Which Robotics Investments Are Good for Private Investors?
You may be wondering: What is a good robotics company to invest in? Robotic process automation (RPA) and other consequential applications of robots are making their way into every industry on Earth. However, investors must know how to spot trends and innovators if they want to put the growth of robotics to work for their portfolio.
Below is a rundown of several robotics stock options that industry experts have flagged as potential windfalls for motivated investors.
Best known as a manufacturer of graphics cards, Nvidia is also heavily invested in the future of robotics and supporting technologies like artificial intelligence. Subsequently, Nvidia’s GPUs (graphics processing units) have implications for self-driving vehicles, enterprise resource planning, and manufacturing-machine intelligence.
2. Rockwell Automation
If you’re looking for a confidence-inspiring company to invest in, look no further than Rockwell Automation. This company is a leader in designing components, software systems, and industrial-grade hardware that influences the economy far and wide. Furthermore, the company’s products appear in automaking plants, food and beverage manufacturing, and chemical processing.
Machine vision represents one of the most potent areas of overlap between robotics and artificial intelligence. It’s a technology that gives intelligent computer algorithms, with the assistance of high-fidelity cameras, the ability to engage in highly detailed inspections of objects. As a result, Cognex technologies have implications in tracking and manufacturing items of all kinds, including car tires, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.
4. Stryker Corp.
Robotic surgery – particularly when aided with 5G mobile networking – is the latest frontier in health care. With Stryker robotics in the mix, a physician need not even be in the same city as the patient they’re tending to. Remote access combined with highly accurate robotic arms and 3D imaging of the human body adds up to a sea of change in the expediency, accuracy, and recovery time of even the most invasive surgeries.
Most apartment dwellers and homeowners recognize the name iRobot from its Roomba series of automated floor-vacuuming robots. However, like most other robotics companies of note, iRobot has diversified its portfolio to stay relevant. The company is an attractive investment option due to its involvement in sectors as varied as digital mapping, artificial intelligence, and mobility aids.
How Should Companies Engage With Robotics Investments?
One of the chief pieces of advice IT specialists and procurement experts hear about investing in robotics is that companies must begin with a problem to solve. Throwing money at a solution before a particular growth opportunity or pain point has been identified could be a waste of time and resources.
Consider these various areas of robotics investments competing for corporate dollars:
- Hardware (including industrial and service robots, sensors, and effectors)
- Software (including command-and-control, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and infrastructure management software)
- Services (including education and training, hardware support, technology integration, and facility modification)
Included in these broad categories is the vast number of application-specific ancillary products associated with robotic process automation. These can include drones, internet of things (IoT) technologies, machine vision inspection technologies, personnel management, material handling, financial analysis software, and more.
The Future of Robotics Growth
Current market forecasts anticipate robust growth for robotics and the associated industries. Global spending on robots should reach $241.4 billion by 2023, according to IDC. Broken down by industrial category, this spending should play out something like this:
- General robotics functions: 47.5% of robotics spending
- Welding functions: 15.6%
- Assembly functions: 11.6%
- Pick-and-pack functions: 9.6%
Some of the biggest names in e-commerce have set the goal of achieving hands-off manufacturing and distribution facilities. So-called “lights-out” factories minimize human intervention and oversight by letting robots inspect, store, pick, pack, and distribute merchandise throughout factory floors and fulfillment centers.
One of these companies, Amazon, calls this arena of research the “epicenter of robotics innovation.” Similarly, other innovators are targeting sectors that are historically slow to change – including agriculture – by designing IoT and robotics solutions that address long-unmet needs.
But how can companies tell what’s a good investment and what’s not? The marketplace is flush with products claiming to revolutionize, streamline, automate, and reinvent the modern assembly line or customer fulfillment workflow. So how can an organization plot a sensible path forward and make the most of their robotics investments?
How to Plan Effective Robotics Investments
The affordability of robotics has at last caught up to its vast potential. Hardware and software robots can help modernize and streamline almost any modern business. Still, knowing where to invest one’s war chest is hugely important.
The cost of adopting robotic systems has fallen by 50% since 1990. However, companies still need to make well-timed and thoroughly considered investments to get their money’s worth.
1. Start With a Problem to Solve
As mentioned previously, robotics can only add value to an organization if decision-makers first study existing workflows, bottlenecks, and team feedback. Robotics investments won’t deliver if there isn’t a mandate – including a specific problem to solve.
Companies specializing in robotics are all too eager to tout the advantages of their systems. However, the benefits may be overblown, or the problem it purports to solve may be overstated. Instead, come to the table with a clear-headed idea of which in-house processes would benefit from mechanical repetition and which are best left alone.
2. Choose Scalable Solutions
World events have a tendency to put companies and entire industries on notice. The most successful companies in the future will be those with the structure and assets to support versatility and rapid change. The last several years saw many companies pivot quickly to target new revenue streams and meet emerging public needs. The right robotics solution should support this level of scalability and fluidity.
A lot of modern robotics systems are designed with wide-ranging compatibility and convenient modularity in mind. It’s wise to seek out robotic assets that feature irreducible designs that make compatibility with existing systems, and future scalability, a snap to navigate.
3. Target Low-Creativity Processes
Robots are excellent at creating accurate, reliable, and duplicable results – but they can’t yet duplicate human ingenuity and creativity. Companies considering investing in robotics should focus on processes that are surgical in nature rather than creative, such as de-palletizing products, storing freight, and even picking customer orders.
Some of the best areas to begin targeting for a robotics upgrade are those that involve fragile items and actions that are repeated again and again throughout a shift. Some robotic systems can manipulate workpieces with a precision level of 2mm, which far surpasses human laborers and ensures a lower defect rate. Maintaining competitiveness in crowded marketplaces oftentimes begins and ends with a company’s consistency. Robotics can help there.
Robotics Investments: Remaking One Industry at a Time
It’s easy to see why adopting robotics will be such a high priority for companies as we move into 2022 and beyond. The ability to fill roles left open by real and perceived labor shortages is invaluable, as is the ability to complete ongoing tasks with consistency, accuracy, and safety.
Luckily, however, robotics investments won’t necessarily replace investments in human capital. In fact, they might help ensure humans get the fair deal, safe workplace, and engaging work they’ve been hungering for.
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