Manufacturing as we know it is transforming fundamental technological development, rising labor costs and new applications. According to a forecast by Acumen Research, the global market size for industrial automation is expected to grow by seven percent between 2019 and 2026, with North America expected to see the largest growth. This outlook did not take the economic halt following the spread of COVID-19 into consideration, but experts believe that the pandemic will eventually herald an automation boom. Like many other countries globally, the U.S. is still dealing with the direct and indirect repercussions of the pandemic. With support from Business Sweden, innovative Swedish companies seeking to find new revenue streams can be a part of U.S. industries’ road to recovery.

An increasingly automated landscape with untapped potential

The U.S. is one of five countries covering the majority of the industrial robotics market globally, and the sales volume of new industrial robot installations throughout the country, and according to Statista is expected to grow by 25 percent between 2017 and 2021. In 2019, the Robotic Industries Association claimed that the strongest driver for growth in robot orders in North America was a 51 percent increase in orders from automotive manufacturers compared to the year before. The automotive industry has long been a leading industry in adopting automation and increasing complexity in its manufacturing plants, but the industry is far from fully utilising and benefitting from available equipment and technology. The Center for Automotive Research investigated 120 U.S. automotive companies regarding their adoption of new technology to implement automation, and identified that utilising data analytics for manufacturing processes is an area with particularly large potential for improvement.

The rising demand for automatisation within U.S. manufacturing and warehousing presents an excellent opportunity for Swedish companies and expertise.
Ambition: decrease dependency on human labour

The U.S. Institute for Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing has identified crucial needs from their member organisations going forward; including versatile robotic systems capable of performing multiple tasks, rapid deployment and re-purposing of robots, collaborative robots, and cost-effective solutions. The pandemic has increased awareness regarding the vulnerability of being dependent on manual labour, and companies are investing in advanced technology in response to the higher manufacturing costs in the U.S. This is expected to result in higher demand for alternatives to human involvement in manufacturing. A recent survey from the industrial sourcing platform Thomas, asked North American manufacturing companies how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses, and the majority of the 746 responding companies indicated that they are likely to invest in automation technology enhancing production performance in the next year.

Consumer behaviour is a driving force

In addition to the manufacturing industry being a key driver for the ongoing automation boom in the U.S., warehousing and logistics are experiencing a significant push in the automated direction as well. According to a recent survey conducted by Honeywell, a majority of warehouse operators are more likely to invest in automation due to the pandemic - a pattern especially clear for e-commerce companies. With COVID-19 accelerating consumer behaviour towards an increase in the already growing volume of deliveries and packages, the demand for automated processes handling the logistics surrounding them has clearly intensified.

Swedish companies are well positioned

The rising demand for automatisation within U.S. manufacturing and warehousing presents an excellent opportunity for Swedish companies and expertise. Companies offering solutions for Smart Factory implementations, warehouse safety, and increased efficiency through automation are well positioned. IT and technological development are success areas for many Swedish companies, which is enhanced by the government strategy Smart Industry that was launched in 2016. The strategy largely focuses on the development of Industry 4.0, with digital transformation leading the way. In addition, Sweden is currently ranked as the fifth most automated country in the world according to the International Federation of Robotics, with a density of 240 robots per 10,000 employees across industries. This is above the U.S. average of 200 and well above the European average of 106 robots. Swedish expertise ranges from hardware and developing robots for the manufacturing assembly line, to developing smarter, and easy re-programmable and more manageable software to integrate in automation.

The U.S. market requires a targeted approach

The U.S. is a large and diverse market with a highly competitive business landscape, and it is therefore important for Swedish companies to investigate where and how to proceed with market entry or expansion. Business Sweden helps Swedish companies shorten their time to market, find new revenue streams and minimise risks. Even though times are turbulent, innovative Swedish companies that are well aligned with manufacturing industries’ and warehouses’ desire to adapt to a new landscape have strong possibilities of being part of the U.S. automation boom going forward.