Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Market Research

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Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics OVERVIEW

The manufacturing and robotics sectors have become tightly intertwined in recent years, thanks to the rapidly growing importance of factory automation.  On factory floors ranging from relatively small machine shops to giant automobile plants and electronics factories, computer-driven equipment plays a vital role in manufacturing worldwide.  The sophistication of the equipment ranges from simple computer-aided machinery that cuts fabric prior to it being sewn into final garments, to robots that make highly accurate and sophisticated welds in car factories, to robots that can rapidly assemble tiny electronics components and solder them in place with blazing speed and great accuracy.

The First Industrial Robot
The first industrial robot to be installed in a major manufacturing plant was probably a machine named Unimate #0001, utilized at a General Motors diecasting plant in Trenton, NJ beginning in 1959.  The primary force behind the Unimate was an American named Joseph Engelberger (sometimes referred to as the “father of robotics”) of the Consolidated Controls Corp. of Bethel, CT.  These efforts led to the establishment of a related firm, Unimation, Inc.  By the late 1960s, automobile manufacturers were racing to install robotic units such as automated welders in their plants worldwide.  As the decades went by, Japanese and German firms grew to be world leaders in factory automation equipment and robotics.  This trend was directly tied to the growing dominance of Japanese and German automobiles, and the decline of the American auto industry.
Meanwhile, China has official hopes to be a world leader in factory automation technologies by 2025, and it is investing accordingly under its “Made in China 2025” plan.  America is attempting to improve its global stance in industrial robotics and automation through the establishment of “Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Innovation” centers, which have attracted backing from both government and corporate funds.

     The ever-growing drive for efficiency and quality, both at the factory and in the supply chain, will make automation technologies more and more vital.  Robotics and automation assist manufacturing in a wide variety of ways, far beyond final assembly.  Robots can control the warehouse, delivering parts to the factory floor on an as-needed basis.  The fact that robots can assist or even replace humans, makes it easier to keep workers spaced further apart during pandemics or flu season.  Computers and sophisticated software help to design, model and test products prior to their actual manufacture, and then upload final instructions to computer-driven factory equipment.  The design of components and sub-assemblies are, to a dominant degree, conducted through computer-aided design tools (often called CAD-CAM) that can be tightly coordinated with the factory floor.
Global Manufacturing:  The worldwide manufacturing sector was estimated by the World Bank at $16.35 trillion (in terms of value added) for 2022.  In manufacturing, value added is the increase in the price (value) that a company adds during the manufacturing process.  For example, a window manufacturer may purchase sheets of glass, raw aluminum, plastics and paints from its suppliers. It fabricates and combines these materials to create a finished window.  The value added is the difference between the cost of the raw materials and the price of the finished window.  Value added is a common measure of manufacturing output.
Manufacturing Revenues and Employment in the United States:  In the U.S., analysts, executives and government can clearly see that manufacturing is on the upswing.  A bigger question, however, is whether or not American manufacturing is perhaps entering a period of renaissance.  The answer is both yes and no.  Manufacturing employment in America has increased modestly in recent years.  There were approximately 12.95 million people employed in manufacturing in the U.S. as of mid-2023, down dramatically from 19 million in 1980.
The American manufacturing sector will benefit over the long-term from a broad range of trends, including changes in global trade, low natural gas prices and energy prices (relative to energy costs in most other major nations), a growing U.S. population, and strength in certain key industries, including machinery, pharmaceuticals, health technology, software, chemicals, petroleum products, aerospace and equipment for transportation and construction.  However, advances in factory productivity, including growing investment in robotics, will dampen job creation in manufacturing plants.  In other words, factory output can increase faster than factory employment due to growing investment in robotics and factory automation.  Improved supply chain practices and technologies will also aid manufacturing.

In Developed Nations, including the U.S., These Factors Will Lead to New and Advanced Products over the Mid- to Long-Term, Creating Additional Demand for Manufacturing:
1)     A substantial research & development (R&D) base
2)     Engineering and scientific expertise
        a)  A substantial base in higher education
3)     Regional manufacturing centers
        a)  Logistics and supply chain support and
4)     A substantial base in advanced technologies, including:
        a)  Robotics and factory automation
        b)  Advanced, high-speed IT networks
        c)  Additive manufacturing (3-D Printing)
        d)  Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Source: Plunkett Research, Ltd.

     Today, the growing use of robotics as well as the rising wages and other costs in offshore manufacturing centers, particularly China, is fueling intense debate about the future of global manufacturing in general.  Supply chain managers on the corporate side, along with analysts and planners on the government and economic side, are attempting to develop strategies for dealing with the evolving manufacturing segment on a nation-by-nation basis.  To begin with, costs are clearly rising substantially in China, which has long been the world’s manufacturing growth engine.  Wages there have been rising steadily, over a period of several years.
At the same time, demographic changes are having a significant effect.  Due to China’s lengthy history of “one child per family” regulations, the Chinese workforce began shrinking in number in 2011, while the senior segment of the population is growing at a rapid clip.  Put another way, China is facing a massive aging problem (far more challenging than the aging population in the U.S.), while the number of young workers available to fill the factory ranks is tipping into serious decline.  
Due to the development of a large network of universities across China, a growing percentage of young people are obtaining college degrees.  These better-educated people, upon entering the workforce, generally do not want to work on the manufacturing floor, which they feel is beneath them.  Many Chinese manufacturers are struggling to find enough workers. 
At the same time, due to geopolitical tensions, as well as supply chain difficulties experienced during the Coronavirus pandemic, many global firms have adopted the attitude that they have been too dependent by utilizing primarily only one offshored manufacturing base: China.  This has caused some companies to seek additional nations in which to manufacture, including a significant reshoring of operations to North America.
These trends are having multiple effects on manufacturers in China.  1) As discussed above, firms are paying much higher wages than they did in the recent past; 2) There is a national emphasis on increased investment in robotics and factory automation, in order to reduce China’s reliance on human workers; 3) The bigger companies are becoming more multinational in nature, moving much of their basic manufacturing to lower-wage nations such as Vietnam and Bangladesh; and 4) Chinese manufacturers are moving up-market, where the manufacture of technically-advanced products such as aircraft creates the ability to pay higher wages while taking advantage of the growing cadre of engineers who are graduating from China’s universities.  The Chinese government has an official strategy of boosting investment in high-value technology-based manufacturing industries, including aerospace, semiconductors, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and robotics.
While China struggles to adapt to its changing costs and demographics, manufacturing has been booming elsewhere, in many lesser developed nations that offer lower costs for real estate and hourly wages.  Competition for offshore manufacturing market share is intense, and China’s share of all U.S. imports has fallen from nearly 22% in 2016 to about 17% in 2022.  Such manufacturing competition is coming from Asia, including India, The Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam.  However, Africa, over the long term, is likely to become one of the world’s basic manufacturing hubs for unsophisticated items such as apparel.  Africa offers an abundance of raw materials, one of the world’s largest supplies of young workers, a rapidly growing population, a geographic location well positioned to serve markets in Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as extremely low costs compared to much of the rest of the world.  However, Africa faces daunting, long-term challenges in improving education, as well as infrastructure such as ports, highways and electricity supplies.
In Asia’s more developed nations, particularly Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, manufacturing of high value items has grown at a soaring rate over the long-term, including automobiles, electronics and pharmaceuticals.  India is often thought of as a center for business processes outsourcing, but it also has a significant and growing manufacturing base.  To a large extent, this manufacturing is in heavy industries, such as steel and petroleum products.  However, the manufacture of sophisticated products, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics and automobiles, has become significant.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of China’s rising costs is Mexico.  Mexico’s manufacturing sector has been perfectly positioned to grow, thanks to a) its proximity to U.S. markets; b) a detailed, recent trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada; c) existing low-cost transportation infrastructure for shipments to and from the U.S.; and d) the relative ease of doing business between U.S. and Mexican companies.  
Reshoring and Nearshoring:  Mexico is positioned perfectly to grow with the recent trends of reshoring and nearshoring, where many U.S. companies want their manufacturing plants and suppliers to be closer to home.  Recently, the Mexican manufacturing sector has also been boosted by the availability of shale natural gas that can be imported from the U.S. at relatively low prices.  Gas exports from the U.S. to Mexico increased dramatically along with rising gas production from American shale wells.  Mexico also enjoys a high-quality highway system for transport of goods.
Robotics and Factory AutomationThe International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimated the total, worldwide base of operational industrial robots at the end of 2022 would be about 3.0 million.  Orders for robots in the U.S. rose 28% in 2021 over 2020 to almost 40,000 units according to the Association for Advancing Automation.


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  • Business trends analysis
  • In-depth industry overview
  • Technology trends analysis
  • Forecasts
  • Spending, investment, and consumption discussions
  • In-depth industry statistics and metrics
  • Industry employment numbers

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Industry Glossary

Industry Contacts list, including Professional Societies and Industry Associations

Profiles of industry-leading companies

  • U.S. and Global Firms
  • Publicly held, Private and Subsidiaries
  • Executive Contacts
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Pages: 682

Statistical Tables Provided: 25

Companies Profiled: 500

Geographic Focus: Global

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Key Questions Answered Include:

  • How is the industry evolving?
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  • How is demand growing in emerging markets and mature economies?
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This feature-rich report covers competitive intelligence, market research and business analysis—everything you need to know about the Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry.

Plunkett Research Provides Unique Analysis of the Following Major Trends Affecting the Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry

  1. Introduction to the Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry
  2. Industrial Robots and Factory Automation Advance Through Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  3. Service Robots Are Applied in a Variety of Industries/Rapid Growth in Robotics for Warehousing & Logistics
  4. U.S. Automobile Manufacturers Drop Sedans and Deal with Supply Chain Issues/Retool for Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  5. Global Growth in Manufacturing and Trade Require Investment by Emerging Nations
  6. Introduction to the Outsourcing & Offshoring Industry
  7. Pros and Cons of Outsourcing & Offshoring
  8. Nearshoring and Reshoring Keep Operations Closer to Home
  9. Upswing in the U.S. Apparel and Textile Sector as Firms Reshore
  10. Scarcity of Manufacturing Workers in China/Vietnam, India and Other Countries Gain Manufacturing Market Share
  11. The Vast Majority of Shoes Sold in the U.S. Are Made Elsewhere
  12. 3-D Printing and Robotics Revolutionize Manufacture of Shoes and Fabrics
  13. Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) Adds Value to Contract Electronics Manufacturing
  14. Trends in Manufacturing, such as Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs), Lead to Collaboration and Consulting-Like Services
  15. 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing), Rapid Prototyping and Computer Aided Design
  16. 3PL Logistics Services and Supply Chain Management Services Soar
  17. Manufacturers Focus on High Performance Plastics and Specialty Chemicals
  18. Refineries Along with Chemicals and Plastics Plants Expand in the U.S.
  19. Telecom Equipment Makers Face Intense Competition from Manufacturers in China
  20. Boeing and Airbus Compete for New Orders
  21. U.S. Auto Manufacturers Ford, Stellantis and GM Compete Head-On with Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda
  22. India Has a Significant Automobile Market, with Great Long-Term Potential
  23. Mexico Is a Leading Automotive Maker and Exporter
  24. Designers and Manufacturers Bypass the Middleman with Direct-to-Consumer Online Business Models
  25. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Deep Learning and Machine Learning Advance into Commercial Applications, Including Health Care and Robotics
  26. The Internet of Things (IoT) in Factories, Robotics and Equipment
  27. Health Care Robotics
  28. Robotics in Retailing and Ecommerce Fulfillment

Plunkett Research Provides In-Depth Tables for the Following Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry Statistics

  1. Overview of the Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry
  1. Manufacturing, Automation & Robotics Industry Statistics and Market Size Overview
  2. Sales & Net Income After-Tax, U.S. Manufacturing Corporations: 2012-2nd Quarter 2023
  3. Sales & Operating Profits, U.S. Manufacturing Corporations, by Industry: 1st Quarter 2022-1st Quarter 2023
  1. Output & Employment
  1. Value Added to U.S. Economy by Manufacturing Sector, as a Percentage of GDP: 1950-2021
  2. Employment in the U.S. Manufacturing Sector, as a Percentage of all Private Industry Employment: 1950-2020
  3. Employment in the U.S. Manufacturing Sector, by Industry:  2017-June 2023
  4. Manufacturing Output vs. Employment, U.S.: 1980-2023
  5. Gross Output in the Wood & Nonmetallic Mineral Products Manufacturing Industries: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  6. Gross Output in the Primary Metals & Fabricated Metal Products Manufacturing Industries: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  7. Gross Output in the Machinery Manufacturing Industry, U.S.: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  8. Gross Output in the Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturing Industries: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  9. Gross Output in the Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components Manufacturing Industries: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  10. Gross Output in the Motor Vehicles & Transportation Equipment Manufacturing Industries: Selected Years, 2015-2021
  11. Gross Output in the Food, Beverage & Tobacco Product Manufacturing Industries, U.S.: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  12. Gross Output in the Textile & Apparel Manufacturing Industries, U.S.: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  13. Gross Output in the Chemicals, Plastics & Rubber Products Manufacturing Industries, U.S.: Selected Years, 2016-2021
  1. Shipments
  1. Annual Value of Manufacturers' Shipments for Industry Groups, U.S.: 2016-2022
  1. Exports
  1. Value of Exports of All Manufactured Goods, U.S.: 2017-August 2023
  2. Exports of Durable & Nondurable Manufactured Goods, U.S.: 2017-First Half 2023
  3. Value of Exports of U.S. Vehicles: 2017-2022
  4. Exports, Imports & Trade Balance of Computers & Electronic Products, U.S.: 2017-2022
  5. Exports, Imports & Trade Balance of Chemicals, U.S.: 2017-First Half 2023
  6. Top 50 Destinations of U.S. Textiles & Apparel Exports: 2021-2022
  7. Top Ten Suppliers & Destinations of U.S. Computers & Electronic Products: 2017-First Half 2023

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This industry onlyPublication date: Sep 2023
ISBN-13: 978-1-64788-503-8
ISBN-13: 978-1-64788-011-8