ZURICHAutomation and robotics are crucial to the future of the automotive industry, claims a recent study conducted by ABB Robotics and Automotive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS). New OEMs and start-ups are leading the charge, while suppliers are lagging behind. Many companies are not yet reaping the benefits offered by digitalization.

Almost all respondents (97 percent) believe that automation and robotics will transform the automotive industry over the next five years, with a similar number (96 percent) predicting that software, digitalization and data management will be equally significant.

When asked about the pace of investment, most believe that start-ups were well ahead of the curve, investing “very well” (38 percent), followed by legacy automakers (31 percent).

However, only 7 percent of respondents believe that Tier 2 suppliers are making necessary investments, with Tier 3 suppliers even further behind.

“Automation has traditionally been seen as the preserve of only the very largest manufacturers,” says Joerg Reger, managing director of ABB Robotics' Automotive Business Line. “But, the reality is that [robots] can address the challenges faced by even the smallest producers. Automation can make smaller companies more resilient, flexible and efficient.”

“While both new and established manufacturers are making key investments, the essential upstream supply chain supporting them is not moving as quickly,” warns Daniel Harrison, an analyst at AMS. “This could prove problematic in terms of costs, and also the speed new and increasingly complex components for EVs and connected cars are delivered to the factory. Affordable and practical automation and robotics need to be available to the entire industry.”