Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, shares top automation trends for 2023

April 17, 2023
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Experts from the industrial automation space discuss technology trends that will impact manufacturers in 2023 and beyond.

PHOTO: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Advances in automation technologies are transforming the industrial manufacturing landscape. Broadly termed “digital transformation,” these smart manufacturing initiatives bring physical and cyber systems together for greater performance, efficiency, sustainability and safety.

Automation experts share their predictions on trends that Canadian manufacturers need to watch out for in 2023 and respond to accordingly.

Here are the predictions for the year from, Jeff Burnstein president of Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

1. Overall robot sales slow slightly in Canada, but thrive in automotive and other key industries

In 2022, Canadian companies purchased 3455 industrial robots, according to the latest A3 report. This slight drop over 2021 is not alarming, as orders often fluctuate for any number of reasons. What is the most compelling finding is the significant jump in orders from automotive OEMS (up 113 percent), semiconductor and electronics (up 88 percent) and plastics and rubber (up 70 percent). While the automotive industry has traditionally been the leading purchaser of robotics and automation, other new industries had overtaken automotive over the last few years. However, the move to electric vehicles (EVs) has accelerated the need for robots in this market.


2. Labour shortages continue to lead growth of automation

In last year’s take on automation trends, we attributed much of the record robot orders in North America, including Canada, the United States and Mexico, to ongoing labour shortages across nearly every industry. 2022 was no different. According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters’ (CME) annual labour survey, nearly two-thirds of manufacturers in Canada have lost or turned down contracts and experienced production delays because they didn’t have enough workers to complete the tasks. Deploying robots to take on the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs human workers do not want to do is helping, and will continue to help, manufacturers compete. Those that don’t automate are getting left behind.

3. Robotics becoming easier to use, more collaborative

We’re increasingly seeing smarter and easier-to-use robots, some without any programming required from the user at all. As a result, more organizations are able to automate, especially small- and medium-sized companies that are new to automation and often hesitated to automate at all because they did not have the in-house capabilities to handle complicated programming and set-up tasks. Without requiring coding, new robot deployment can often be achieved in hours or days. Robots are also becoming increasingly collaborative, flexible and more dexterous. Many robotics vendors also have developed a wide range of packaged solutions meaning a company can get everything it needs to automate a specific task with little or no extra engineering required.

4. Cybersecurity and sustainability emerge as new focus

With robots joining an increasingly connected world, some companies are concerned about the possibility of their solutions being hacked. While there is no one-size-fits-all prevention for manufacturers, they are tailoring their cybersecurity strategy to include robots. This requires more education and more collaboration among not just the IT and security teams but across the entire organization. And more vendors are creating tools and other solutions with cybersecurity built in, facilitating the process.

Sustainability is another trend moving front and centre in many areas of the world, including Canada. More companies are considering the impact of robots and automation on our environment, and many are now moving away from ground-based sources of materials and exploring the entire lifecycle of their products to discover which parts can be reused.

5. The mobile robot industry is booming

Manufacturers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of automating their material transport with mobile robots that can flexibly and safely move materials and any goods within their plants. A3 doesn’t track mobile robot orders, but in its latest report, Interact Analysis said mobile robot shipments grew by 53 percent in 2022 and forecasts “an installed base of over four million mobile robots by the end of 2027, 1.5 million of which will be installed in 2027 alone.”

6. New industries embracing automation

While the automotive industry re-emerged as a big purchaser of robots in 2022, we continue to see new applications for robots such as drywall finishing, shelf-scanning, food preparation services, drink orders on cruise ships and busy hotels like Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and even fruit picking. In Canada, these “other industries” were responsible for 14 percent more robot orders in 2022 over 2021. The new interest from these types of companies requires innovative solutions from robot vendors, and they’re answering with unique ways to automate tasks. We hear about new applications every day and can’t wait to see even more – along with other automation technologies – at Automate 2023 in Detroit this May 22-25.

Jeff Burnstein

Jeff Burnstein, A3

Jeff Burnstein is president of A3, the parent group of the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, and the Motion Control and Motors Association (MCMA). Burnstein joined RIA in 1983 and has held a variety of senior positions, culminating in his promotion to president in 2007.

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