Home Frontier Tech Robotics & Automation It’s high time for manufacturers to turn the tables on automation

It’s high time for manufacturers to turn the tables on automation

Norms have permanently changed in the way businesses are conducted in many markets, industries, and regions. The opportunity is ripe for businesses to participate in digitally centric markets across Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) and build their digital strategy.

The IDC APJ Automation Survey 2022 commissioned by UiPath estimates that at least 65% of the average revenue among organisations in APJ will come from digital products, services, or digitised experiences. As more organisations are gearing up to meet digitally savvy customers, the race is on for APJ enterprises to leverage automation for business excellence, customer experience, and competitive success in the next few years.

Current productivity, quality and compliance have led manufacturers in the region to accelerate their digital maturity. Automation empowers manufacturers to streamline operations and improve efficiency, respond to disruptions, and incorporate sustainable operations. The appetite for automation is clear with many manufacturers making steady investments and efforts to accelerate their automation journey. IDC expects that by 2025, 14% of APJ organisations are expected to become automation pioneers.

The importance of leveraging automation in a post-pandemic world

To meet demands of productivity, quality, and compliance, APJ manufacturers have been driven to accelerate digital adoption. A larger number of manufacturing firms in the region are looking to leverage automation in operations, especially to support remote capabilities, to attain quality data for control and compliance monitoring, to assess equipment/asset monitoring to reduce downtime, and increase utilisation and efficiency.

For instance, it is anticipated that 14% of APJ organisations will adopt an enterprise-wide deployment of RPA in the next three years. Similarly, 67% of firms in the region will leverage intelligent process automation in more than 20% of their total automation deployments in the next three years to address the needs of high business performance, new customer expectations, and talent shortages.

Furthermore, labour constraints, rapidly increasing labour rates, and the residual impacts of the pandemic will compel many organisations to invest more in automation systems that can be deployed in warehouses and distribution centres to supplement the human workforce. Approximately 60% of supply chain organisations in APJ will prioritise automation investments, thus improving productivity by 20%.

On the other hand, 82% of manufacturing firms in APJ believe that automation is key to increasing productivity, efficiency, and collaboration. This is exemplified by Dongfeng Nissan, an automobile manufacturing company headquartered in China. As part of Dongfeng Nissan’s digital transformation strategy, they adopted automation for repetitive digital tasks. By leveraging RPA software, Dongfeng Nissan built a cross-functional company-level centre of excellence team in collaboration with its digital transformation wing, IT, and various business units. The company has also deployed RPA in eight key business areas, covering 126 RPA processes, which resulted in them saving over 13,000 hours annually with over 400 employees trained in automation. This form of RPA democratisation can motivate employees to create value for the company, simplify repetitive tasks, and allow new skill sets to be applied to improve business operations in other areas.

In addition, the IDC report highlighted that organisations will increasingly look to automate environmental, social, and governance functions over the next few years, as more than 30% of organisations in APJ are expected to prioritise automation. Key focus areas for sustainability initiatives over the next two years include optimisation of the energy efficiency of products and operations, incorporating circular economy principles (repair/remanufacture/recycle) in operations, the reduction in waste and driving cost efficiencies, and the incorporation of responsible sourcing principles into the supply chain. It is estimated that 40% of major APEJ (Asia-Pacific excluding Japan) firms will have completely embedded sustainability into their operations by 2024.

Capture benefits at scale for manufacturing with automation

Although the manufacturing sector has so far been a relatively low adopter of automation in the APJ region, a greater number of firms are making steady investments and efforts to accelerate their automation efforts within the next three years.

There is a need for disruptive technology such as RPA in manufacturing that can help businesses to focus on product innovation and core strengths instead of repetitive tasks that are critical but mundane. Technologies such as AI can also be combined with RPA to enable the automation of tasks that are much more complicated to be addressed with RPA alone, such as predictive maintenance, price forecasting, and quality control.

Building these capabilities will help companies in this sector capture benefits at scale, improve customer and employee experience, and build a long-term competitive advantage.