Wrapping our minds around using robotics today seems more reality than fantasy. The use of robotics is gaining momentum in many applications, including industrial processes, physical security, construction and even assisting humans with physical and rehabilitative therapy. As these devices go mainstream and develop greater reliability and artificial intelligence (A.I.), it’s no longer in the realm of science fiction to think robots may become an integral part of an electrical contractor’s service offerings.
According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a global organization advocating the benefits of automating, companies increasingly turned to robotics to remain productive and competitive during the pandemic. A3 statistics indicated that 2021 saw the biggest moves to embrace robotics, as labor shortages disrupted manufacturing and logistics and industries turned to automation as a panacea. Strong robot sales in the third quarter of 2021 brought the total number of orders to nearly 29,000 units, valued at $1.48 billion for the North American robotics market, according to A3.
“We see many current users expanding their applications of robotics and automation throughout their facilities while first-time robotics users are emerging in a wide range of industries, such as automotive, agriculture, construction, electronics, food processing, life sciences, metalworking, warehousing and more,” Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, said in a press release.
Robots and automated processes brought new efficiencies to many vertical markets, which allowed them to scale up production quickly, even as workforce numbers declined and work from home emerged as the norm. In addition, refinements and innovation in vision and imaging, motion control, motors and A.I. brought robotics and automation to the forefront of many organizations’ operational strategies. Statistics from the Robotic Industries Association bear out the emergence of new markets: the fourth quarter of 2020 marked the first time the use of nonautomotive robotics exceeded those by automotive vendors.
The medical market in particular is seeing an increasing development of robotic products and devices that perform a wide array of tasks and even assist surgeons, according to a study by Future Market Insights. The study predicts a surge in the medical rehabilitation robotics market at a compound annual growth rate of 15.9% from 2021 to 2031.
Are you ready for RaaS?
Other trends indicate growing acceptance of industrial, mobile and service robots. What once was an expensive product category reserved for top industrial companies and processes is making inroads for maintenance tasks, and even robots as a service (RaaS). Following subscription models familiar to systems integrators who specify video surveillance as a service and access control software as a service, robotics will increasingly be available through a leasing option. Subscriptions may include monitoring, analytics and preventative maintenance rolled into monthly plans.
In construction, robots and drones are used to evaluate work sites; first responders deploy them to assess threats or aid in search and rescue; in physical security, they augment guard patrol services or are deployed as a building concierge or COVID-19 compliance officer with temperature checks. Public venues will implement robotics for crowd control or threat assessments. When it comes to dangerous jobs that would put a human at risk, engaging RaaS may be the way to go.
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