Drives and Controls Magazine
Automation industry expects to grow by at least 10% in 2021
Published:  30 March, 2021

A survey of automation companies around the world has revealed widespread optimism, with revenues, investment in automation, and headcounts all expected to grow by more than 10% this year. The survey, conducted by Interact Analysis for the US-based Association for Advancing Automation (A3), quizzed more than 200 respondents from automation-related companies with combined revenues of more than $50bn. The majority (70.3%) were based in the Americas, with 23.6% in the EMEA region.

Two thirds of those surveyed believe that the Covid pandemic will no longer be affecting their businesses negatively within 12 months, with 20% reporting that things are already back to normal. The automation industry expects investment by customers to grow by an average of 26% during 2021. Despite the downturn in the automotive industry, this sector is expected to be the biggest driver of growth, followed closely by the food and beverage industry.

The survey also revealed a paradox. Some 20.4% of those polled said that their biggest challenge was meeting customer demand, while a similar number (19.3%) felt that their biggest problem was weak customer demand. The biggest complaint (cited by 31.4%) was about travel restrictions and the inability to see customers. Some 14.1% said they were having problems hiring and retaining staff, while 5.8% regarded complying with customers’ Covid restrictions as being their biggest challenge.

The most buoyant sector is robot manufacturing, where revenues are expected to grow by 50% this year. Robot-makers also predict a 41% rise in both investment and headcounts. Machine-builders expect revenues to expand by 34% and investment by 30% during 2021, while manufacturers of motors and motion control equipment are predicting that revenues will increase by 14% and investment by 16%.

The respondents seem relaxed about returning to physical trade shows with 81% saying they would be willing to go back, most of them within the coming year.

According to the Interact/3A survey, the biggest challenge currently facing the automation industry are the restrictions on travel and seeing customers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

By August of 2022, 93% of those surveyed by Interact expect Covid to be having minimal or zero impact on the automation industry.

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