Automate 2023: Top 3 manufacturing market insights

OTTO Motors

Last week, over 25,000 manufacturing engineers, plant managers and technicians assembled in Detroit, Michigan to witness the largest display of automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, vision, motion control and more at the Automate trade show.

The OTTO Motors team was thrilled to be a two-time valued speaker and an exhibitor on the show floor to demonstrate our autonomous mobile robot (AMR) solution. We spoke directly with manufacturers, listened to sessions, and walked the show floor to learn all about current market trends and what’s important to the manufacturers of today and tomorrow.

Here are our top 3 market insights from the 2023 Automate show:

1. Manufacturers are future-proofing with automation to combat the labor shortage

With more than 2.4 million manufacturing jobs projected to go unfilled by 2028, the global labor shortage is more troublesome than ever before. In fact, according to a Deloitte study, 45% of manufacturing executives turned down business opportunities due to a lack of workers in 2022.

To combat this growing concern, manufacturers are implementing robotics and automation as a way to “future-proof” their operations. In-booth conversations with manufacturers have confirmed that their limited workers are wasting time walking or driving materials across facilities. This is a simple process that manufacturers know can be easily automated to redeploy valuable resources, like workers, in other areas of the facility that require uniquely human skills.

In fact, as robot shipments in the United States increase, employment increases simultaneously. Robotic adoption is creating new high-skilled, better-paying jobs, such as:

  • Machine Learning Engineer: $128,032 per year
  • Data Scientist: $124,074 per year
  • Robotics Engineer: $89,872 per year
  • Robot Technician: $67,421 per year
  • Algorithm Engineer: $101,432 per year

Robots are optimizing production more than ever, increasing global competitiveness, and performing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks that enable companies to create higher-skilled, better-paying, and safer jobs where people use their brains, not their brawn.

Jeff Burnstein

President of A3

Throughout the 750 exhibitor booths, product demonstrations were extremely common to showcase the available robots that can help combat the global labor shortage, such as the highly-popular AMR demo space and OTTO Motors’ booth where four AMRs completed autonomous material handling workflows.

2. The adoption of automation is spreading across industries

With over 25,000 registrants and 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, Automate 2023 was a hub for any and all manufacturers interested in automation solutions. Attendees were well into their exploration of automation technology, asking deep, technical questions to find the right solution for their application.

Facility retooling as a result of electric vehicle production has driven the automotive industry to be one of the leading adopters of automation. In fact, 54% of all robot sales came from the automotive industry in 2022, a 42% increase in sales from 2021.

While the automotive industry was well represented in “Motor City” for the Automate trade show, many other industries were present as well, expressing their need for automation in order to be more productive and globally competitive. The industries present at the show included food and beverage, retail, metals, warehousing, plastics and rubber, agriculture, life sciences, construction, heavy industrial, electronics, consumer goods and more.

Exhibitors certainly showcased the need for automation across all industries, with robots pouring alcoholic drinks and coffee, sanding guitars and more. Booths were also focused on results, with customer case studies showing the increase in productivity, throughput, safety and more at real manufacturing sites globally.

Image 1: Flexiv booth at Automate 2023 displaying robot precision by sanding a guitar.

Image 1: Flexiv booth at Automate 2023 displaying robot precision by sanding a guitar.

To meet the rising demand for AMRs across multiple industries, OTTO Motors launched the OTTO Certified Dealer program at the Automate trade show to provide high-quality service and support locally throughout North America. Representing the most reputable material handling equipment organizations in the continent, OTTO Certified Dealers are trained and certified to successfully deploy, maintain and scale automation systems for our growing customer base.

3. Interoperability is helping to build integrated warehouses

Across the trade show floor, we saw many robot vendors that specialized in particular tasks or applications within a manufacturing facility or warehouse, such as material handling, picking, packing, and truck unloading. However, a warehouse needs all of those applications automated and integrated with one another.

Multi-fleet orchestration was a common theme throughout the conference’s 125 sessions, with the need for standards between robots that will keep them working together efficiently through common interfaces.

Interoperability, particularly compliance with standards like VDA5050, will play a crucial role in facilitating the adoption of automation by manufacturers worldwide. We were excited to share our thoughts on this increasingly important topic in our conference session, “The Best of Both Worlds: Unlocking the Productivity of AGVs and AMRs”, which we have also recorded as a webinar.

CEO and Co-Founder of InOrbit, Florian Pestoni, spoke on “The Growing Need for Robot Orchestration” live at Automate to discuss how the ability to manage material across multiple vendors through effective robot orchestration is critical for the industry to thrive. Together, we have demonstrated the flexibility of interoperability through a workflow that uses both our AMR and an automated guided vehicle (AGV) working closely together. 

The OTTO Motors team enjoyed learning from experts during conference sessions, speaking with manufacturers directly and walking the show floor at Automate 2023. We learned that the global labor shortage is still a key driver for the adoption of future-proofing automation technologies, and that an increasing number of industries are adopting this technology to improve safety, productivity and more. However, specialized vendors simply cannot solve all challenges for manufacturers, leading to the growing importance of interoperability and its associated standards. We are excited to see what we learn at Automate 2024 in Chicago as the industry continues to evolve.

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