on June 19th, 2020

Opportunities in industrial automation are expected to exponentially increase as the global pandemic highlights the need to speed up the adoption of automation to ensure productivity. The shift in trends from traditional techniques to digitized systems has revolutionized supply chain management. Robotics and automated processes are helping companies operate more efficiently and are creating new avenues of work for engineering technicians, technologists and professional engineers. Companies are investing in automation technologies, such as robotics, smart sensors, industrial digital computers, and more, to keep their operations efficient. Automotive, retail, transportation & logistics, manufacturing, mining and the energy sectors have a renewed appetite to increase automated processes for cost optimization and productivity.

Adversely, instead of slowing down, some essential industries have had to increase production amid global lockdowns. The pandemic has highlighted the increasing need for industrial automation to keep industry operating as crises threaten more shutdowns in the future.

MarketandResearch.biz has posted a new report on the ‘Global Conveyor Equipment Market by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2025’. They report that manufacturing plants specifically are currently looking into the following technologies that might keep their supply chains in business:

  • Automated Guided Vehicle Systems (AGV)
  • Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
  • Conveyor & Sortation Systems
  • Robotic systems

Meeting the employability demands of automation

QS, a leading global education network has compiled a report entitled ‘How Artificial Intelligence is Influencing Graduate Employability’. The report encourages students to think about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) may replace jobs within industries and alludes to the fact that students need to master the fundamentals of AI and ML to future proof their careers. The report points out that employers are seeing the cost-benefit of employing and utilizing technologies that utilize AI. The report reads:

“Overall, 67% of employers feel that by the year 2030 AI will indeed provide a more cost-effective alternative to highly skilled jobs, showing that almost two-thirds regard AI as a threat to the graduate labour market. “

However, most experts are confident that AI-based software systems will not replace highly skilled positions, but rather help augment the work that engineers and workers undertake within an organization. Therefore, staying abreast of the technical side of automation software and technologies is important for the technician, technologist or engineer. The ability of employees to be ready and prepared for the next generation of emerging jobs, as a consequence of automation, is the mark of a transformative engineering professional.

The industries showing immediate automation appetite

Oil and Gas company Cairn India accounts for approximately 25 per cent of India’s domestic crude oil production. India has had one of the more stringent lockdowns in the world. Cairn India went from having a mammoth 7,500 personnel on-site, to having just 1,500 personnel since the lockdown was announced.

The oil industry, in general, saw incredible swings during the global lockdowns. Not only did the price per barrel of oil stoop to a historic low, but engineers were also forced off plants. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods. The engineering work landscape has been rapidly evolving, and the pandemic has accelerated and changed the landscape in ways we are only beginning to understand,” says ASME Executive Director/CEO Tom Costabile. “Engineers are applying technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D printing to help respond to the public health crisis, and also to adapt processes in many industrial sectors and transform supply chains for the future.”

Talking to the Economic Times India, the chief digital officer of Cairn, Anand Laxshmivarahan said: “In the post-COVID-19 world, the focus has shifted to cost optimization; the only place companies are willing to invest is in automation.”

The Economic Times India says Tata Steel, Ceat Tyres, Maruti, Mahindra, Toyota and Tata Motors have looked into how to continue further automating their production lines as a consequence of the pandemic and lockdowns. Human resource officers from those companies quizzed on how the pandemic was affecting them are all clear: digitisation and automation is now the name of the game. The renewed push to automate even more of the automotive sector is in line with the reports on the Global Conveyor Equipment Market forecasts.

When companies invest in new technologies, engineering professionals confront new challenges in their employment and this highlights the need for high-quality training and education in the area. While several pathways will lead to a career in industrial automation engineering, most universities only offer this specialisation as a Masters. However, EIT offers advanced diplomas, bachelors and masters specifically focussed in industrial automation. Or, for those who wish to upskill via an intensive short course, EIT’s three-month online Professional Certificate of Competency in Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) & SCADA Systems highlights recent developments, using case studies, and the latest application of SCADA, PLC technologies and fundamentals.

Works Cited

Bhattacharyya, Rica, and Lijee Philip. “Automation Key to Post-Pandemic Production.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 27 Apr. 2020, economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/company/corporate-trends/automation-key-to-post-pandemic-production/articleshow/75395665.cms?from=mdr.

“Global Conveyor Equipment Market 2020 by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2025.” Marketandresearch.biz, www.marketandresearch.biz/report/130737/global-conveyor-equipment-market-2020-by-manufacturers-regions-type-and-application-forecast-to-2025.

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