Four predictions for 2024: AI will power robotic automation

Anders Billesø Beck, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Universal Robots

We’ve reached this point in the year when it’s time to reflect on the trends of the past 12 months as we look ahead to what 2024 will bring for the world of robotics and automation.

2023 was an exciting year for innovation. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as generative AI has captured global attention and dominated the headlines. However, enterprise adoption of generative AI is still in its early stages

Questions of how best to use this technology remain at the forefront of many minds.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process, so we can expect this year’s innovative trends to shape society in the coming year as well. But how will these trends affect robotics and automation, and what can the manufacturing industry expect in the coming year?

Anders Billesø Beck, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Universal Robots, presents four predictions for 2024:

AI will set a new pace of development in robotics and automation

Artificial intelligence is changing the world of software development, making it cheaper, faster and more efficient. Software is a key part of automation and with AI, software developers will be able to create more personalized and optimized solutions for different tasks and challenges.

If software development has ever felt like digging a shovel, introducing artificial intelligence is like bringing two horses and a plow to the process. However, automation expertise will remain a rare and valuable resource in the AI ​​manufacturing revolution.

It was interesting and perhaps surprising to see how artificial intelligence is changing the lives of office workers before it affects the workflows of most factories. I hope that more manufacturers will see the benefits of machine learning in 2024. After all, this technology already exists: we have many partners developing applications that use AI to enable our robots to perform more complex and diverse functions.

For example, artificial intelligence enables robots to perceive as humans, manage variations, move parts precisely, adapt to changing environments and learn from their own experiences. Over time, these capabilities will lead to unprecedented flexibility, quality and reliability in manufacturing.

Advances in robotics software will enable greater sharing and reuse

Robotics software is the glue that binds users to their mechanical counterparts: digital connectivity that goes beyond physical interaction. Software development enables a new dimension of collaboration: connecting people with robots. 2024 will see the development of software that will lead to new levels of sharing and reuse.

Imagine a world where instead of thinking the wheel, we leverage existing software assets (components, interfaces, algorithms) across different applications. It’s a principle that already supports our UR+ partner ecosystem, optimizing innovation and reducing time to market. I can’t wait to see how it develops next year.

Companies merge IT and OT using data to improve operations

The future of manufacturing is closely linked to IT/OT integration, as data will drive innovation and efficiency. Research shows that the manufacturing industry has been at the forefront of adopting cloud-based software services, and we’re already seeing some customers use them to improve quality, profitability and predictability. Thanks to this, I believe that in 2024 we will see the growth of data-driven manufacturing and logistics systems.

Many still have the outdated view that the cloud is simply a data collector and backup function as we know it from our private lives. But the real potential and power isn’t in data storage or even machine networking. The real transformational leap comes when cloud-based software services connect people and machines, helping manufacturers simplify complex processes and make smarter decisions.

The benefits of this digital evolution are significant. Remote access to production data enables quick responses to problems and continuous improvement of automation.

Now that dynamic systems are essential, trusted cloud technologies offer the latest in next-generation security and services. Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) companies highlight this advancement, promising greater efficiency and reduced downtime through total equipment effectiveness (OEE) visualization and predictive maintenance.

As 2024 approaches, manufacturers will benefit from these improvements, achieving higher quality, reduced downtime, better predictability and cost optimization. This transition is a strategic imperative and supports the shift to high-volume and diverse manufacturing, resilient supply chains, competitive use of data and sustainability goals.

Logistics will be the focus of robotics

Earlier this year, Interact Analysis analyzed projected growth rates for robot shipments across industries. The most notable area of ​​planned growth?

Logistics, where Interact Analysis reports a projected CAGR for deliveries of collaborative robots (cobots) at 46% from 2023-2027. I’m not surprised that the market for non-industrial applications is growing rapidly.

Like manufacturing, many logistics companies are facing severe labor shortages as pressure increases due to globalization, e-commerce and complex multi-channel supply chains. More logistics, warehouse and distribution centers will turn to automation next year to deliver services faster and with greater accuracy.

Let’s take an example: A logistics company we work with, exposed to the growing demands of e-commerce, revolutionized its fulfillment center with collaborative robots, resulting in a 500% increase in efficiency and accuracy of shipments.

Adept at processing thousands of orders a day, the automation system particularly excelled during peak periods such as Black Friday, when one robot handled up to 4,400 orders in one day, with only a small team to replenish.

Robots (and the intelligent use of data) are poised to revolutionize the logistics business across the entire value chain, from inbound packages to outbound logistics.

The pace of robotics development continues to be impressive – I look forward to another exciting year of progress with bated breath.

About Universal Robots:

Universal Robots is a leading provider of collaborative robots (cobots) used in a wide range of industries and in education. Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Odense, Denmark, Universal Robots aims to create a world where people work with robots, not as robots. Their mission is simple: automation for everyone. Anywhere.

Since introducing the world’s first commercially viable cobot in 2008, Universal Robots has developed a product portfolio reflecting a range of scopes and payloads and has sold more than 75,000 cobots worldwide. A vast ecosystem has grown around the company’s cobot technology, creating innovation, customer choice and a wide range of components, kits and solutions to suit every application.

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