As we bid farewell to 2023, let’s look at the trends that shaped (and continue to shape) the industrial automation landscape. A few overarching movements characterized this year, including innovation in creating electric vehicles (EVs), seeking after labor-shortage solutions, and the reshoring tidal wave we’ve been watching for a while.

1. Automotive Advancements

Electric vehicles (EVs) were the dominant thought in the automotive market this year, as more and more automakers are shifting their focus to electrification and offering a wider range of models and options for consumers. Reuters reports that in 2023, “total EV sales for the third quarter rose nearly 50% from a year ago and accounted for a record 7.9% of total industry sales.” EVs are expected to account for 40% of global car sales by 2030. Several factors, such as government incentives, consumer awareness, infrastructure development, and innovation in battery technology, fuel the significant growth of the EV market.

The growth of EVs has propelled innovation in manufacturing technology, such as giga casting, 3D printing, and, of course, industrial automation—particularly automation for assembly—to enable automakers to improve the efficiency, quality, and scalability of their production processes. The vehicle manufacturing industry will continue to scale up and grow with technological advancements and production line improvements.

2. Labor Shortage Troubleshooting

The National Association of Manufacturers describes the situation well: “Manufacturers are confronting a range of challenges around the workforce, including labor shortages and skills gaps, while also figuring out how to take advantage of previously untapped talent pools.” 

From the viewpoint of industrial automation, we see a lesson that is still being learned: people and automation are not mutually exclusive, and in a time when labor is in short supply, creativity needn’t be. A recent blog from tech company Zebra highlighted this point, saying: “Manufacturing is just as much a digital industry now as it is a physical industry, which means that both technology and people will be required to sustain production at the levels demanded in today’s growing economy.”

The blog’s author, Matt Van Bogart, points to manufacturing millennials who have indicated that younger generations of manufacturers tend not to view industrial automation as a threat to their livelihoods: “While some are afraid they’ll be replaced by robots, there are many people who see automation as the key to keeping people gainfully employed for longer, and the key to making manufacturing jobs more accessible to people who otherwise might feel unqualified.”

These observations align with our thoughts on automation as a way to mitigate increasing labor shortages: by working on technology-driven roles, manufacturers can leverage their knowledge and skills to innovate and create new products, improve existing processes and quality control, and drive innovation in their various industries. Industrial automation can supplement labor by maximizing productivity, ensuring consistency, and improving safety.

3. Reshoring High Tide

We’ve been paying close attention to the reshoring trend, most recently examining the challenges posed in the reshoring decision-making process. At the start of this year, we predicted the growth of this trend. We later noted that as many as 50% of American manufacturing CEOs planned to further reshore operations this year to meet growing demand.

While the year hasn’t closed, and the complete numbers aren’t yet in, there are promising signs that reshoring is finishing the year as strongly as anticipated. The main reason for this optimism comes from manufacturing construction numbers: spending on manufacturing construction in September was up 62% over the same month in 2022, which indicates that new factories are going up and manufacturing is finding a future at home in North America rather than abroad.

Industrial automation can help manufacturers overcome the challenges of reshoring, such as the shortage of skilled workers, the need for higher productivity and efficiency in the supply chain, and the integration of new technologies and processes, as in the automotive industry. By tapping into intelligent automation and staying up on the latest trends, business owners harness the power of emerging and process-improving tech, such as IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things).

What’s Next in Industrial Automation?

What might 2024 hold? What are the new tools and latest technology that will impact the manufacturing process? Stay tuned for our thoughts and predictions for manufacturing and industrial automation trends during the year ahead. And if you’re wondering whether to enhance your manufacturing and improve operational efficiency with industrial automation in the coming year, contact us today for a free consultation.