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Car-makers use automation to transform businesses

12 June, 2023

Almost half (44%) of the world’s car-makers are relying on automation to help transform their businesses over the coming five years. Some 41% are planning to improve their use of data analytics, but this will be a challenge with 35% of the data being generated in the automotive industry currently being unused.

The figures come from a survey of 197 managers and executives from automotive manufacturers and suppliers in 13 countries, conducted by Rockwell Automation as part of its part of its eighth annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report.

The survey found that almost half of the respondents (49%) are already using smart manufacturing technologies and of those who have not yet invested in smart manufacturing, more than half (51%) plan to do so in the coming 12 months. The most popular form of investment is in production monitoring (cited by 60% of respondents), followed by quality management systems (52%) and manufacturing execution systems (49%).

When asked which technologies are delivering the biggest ROIs, 31% of the car-makers said process automation, followed by AMRs (automated mobile robots) and AGVs (automated guided vehicles), and machine integration – both on 25%. AI and machine learning were cited by 22% and the IIoT and IoT by 21%.

But just 10% of those quizzed feel that cobots (collaborative robots) are delivering attractive ROIs, while just 11% think that digital twins offer good paybacks.

The car-makers report that on average they are spending 23% of their operating budgets on technology, with 41% saying they are spending on shopfloor automation, 32% saying they are investing in cloud technology, and 30% in cybersecurity.

Some 44% of automotive industry leaders are relying on automation to help transform their businesses over the next five years, with 41% planning to improve their use of data analytics.
Source: Rockwell Automation

Other findings include:
• 85% of car-makers expect to maintain, or even increase, their current workforces as a result of adopting new technologies;
• 64% are using software to automate processes, and 54% are increasing automation to address labour shortages;
• the main drivers for accelerating digital transformation are to cut costs and improve quality;
• 31% of automotive manufacturers either plan to, or already have, invested in AI and machine-learning technologies, and this number is expected to grow as use cases develop;
• 42% plan to repurpose their existing workforces, and 27% believe they’ll hire more workers as a result of adopting advanced technologies;
• 35% of the businesses report that smart manufacturing has helped them to mitigate issues with deploying and integrating new technologies;
• 29% believe it has helped with the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic; and
• 97% of car-makers and suppliers say they have sustainability and ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives in place.

“Over the last few years, the automotive industry has been tasked with navigating many new challenges and obstacles,” says Paul Epperson, Rockwell’s vice-president for the global automotive, tyre and advanced mobility sectors. “From shifts in consumer demand and supply chain issues, to microchip shortages and manufacturing workforce challenges, the industry has been compelled to remain agile.

“For instance,” he continues, “with the automotive industry’s switch to electric vehicles, manufacturers are having to increase their workforce as they make the transition, not only at their existing facilities but also as they open greenfield plants. It is evident from reviewing the survey findings that navigating these challenges by adopting new technologies, while balancing quality with profitable growth, are top of mind for automotive leaders.”

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