The automation technologies emerging in 2021

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This is the next wave of technology innovation that will fundamentally alter the way manufacturers operate.

By Dijam Panigrahi is co-founder and COO of Grid Raster Inc.

Enterprises in virtually every industry are utilizing a bevy of new technologies that create efficiencies and cut costs through new, advanced virtual services. Many of these organizations are working to harness these virtual technologies through automation so that they can vastly improve the customer experience whereby digital processes are accessible through optimized services.

Leading technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud services and the Internet of Things (IoT) are powering everything from robotics to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for businesses in these industries. As a result, enterprises in manufacturing, healthcare, technology, construction, energy, automotive, aerospace and financial services (to name a few) are more competitive and positioned well for future growth.

Ultimately, these technologies are being leveraged to help companies make more intelligent decisions, and to virtually supplement human capital to better serve the customer. In doing so, organizations can create a more robust and personalized experience for customers, whether that’s an end consumer or a partner along the supply chain. In every instance, smart, savvy and successful organizations are moving their workload infrastructures to cloud environments to launch and manage new tools for scalable operations.

What’s In store for automation in 2021?

Here’s what we know about how much automation is being implemented entering 2021, and what kinds of automation technologies are being utilized:

Automation historically was viewed as too futuristic by manufacturers or as a threat to human capital by the workforce. However, today automation is embraced more by businesses that are looking to increase efficiencies and cut costs, as well as tools to supplement human capital as opposed to job replacement.

According to our recent industry survey, which was taken by more than 250 business leaders across a variety of industries in the first week of December 2020, over half of those polled said they have incorporated automation technologies for 5-15% of their manufacturing operations. 

Budget isn’t always the reason for lack of implementation

Fifty-two percent revealed there are a handful of issues preventing them from expanding their automation strategies, such as the need for greater innovation to build custom solutions that meet their unique challenges. Less than a quarter (21%) point to budget constraints as the prevention of this expansion.

Furthermore, half of those polled said they’re utilizing workflow automation/BPM solutions currently; 47% said they’re using marketing automation; and another 46% said they’re incorporating AR/VR into their manufacturing operations.

Of those businesses that have incorporated automation in 2020, nearly a quarter said they’re seeing a 15-20% increase in production efficiency. And slightly more than a quarter said they’re seeing a 10-15% increase in operational cost savings as a result.

Importance of data & cloud-based platforms

Data is central to the use of much of this automation, and the amount of data that’s created continues to rise significantly. Data is a critical need for businesses in every industry, providing a foundation for digital services, AI, natural language processing (NLP), deep neural networks, machine learning, and more. Each of these information-rich digital services leverages algorithmic-intensive operations. As a result, organizations are reaching a point where their data storage and computing needs are unable to keep up with the growth of data and technological advancements.

As these digital-rich environments become larger, the problem continues to compound. This cycle is repeated for each of the different automation platforms, making it difficult for any enterprise to move from experiments and pilots to full scale deployable solutions, thus stunting the speed of innovation and effectiveness.

Manufacturers are overcoming this great challenge by partnering with providers of cloud-based (or remote server-based) platforms powered by distributed cloud architecture. These cloud-enabled platforms provide the desired performance and scalability to drive innovation in the industry at speed and scale.

Manufacturers today are experiencing the next wave of technology innovation that will fundamentally alter the way they operate. This transformation is primarily driven by merging of the digital and physical world to create a better, smarter and more efficient way of operating.

Automation and immersive technologies such as AR/VR solutions are playing a pivotal role in this transformation. The organizations that take a leadership role will be the ones that not only leverage these technologies, but they will partner with the right technology provider to help scale appropriately without having to stunt technological growth. 

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