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Key questions about robotics in the automotive industry: Q&A with GlobalData thematic analyst

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Shabnam Pervez (MBPsS) is a thematic analyst at GlobalData's London office. Pervez has been working on the thematic team for almost four years, focusing on emerging technology trends across the Apparel, Automotive, Healthcare, Medical Devices, Packaging, Retail and Technology vertical markets.

Lara Virrey: What are the most exciting developments in robotics for the automotive industry today?

Shabnam Pervez: Some of the exciting developments in robotics include the development of autonomous vehicles, robotic manufacturing, AI-powered inspection, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), electric vehicle manufacturing, maintenance, painting, and human-robot collaboration.

Lara Virrey: What are the key challenges in the automotive that robotics can help with?

Shabnam Pervez: Some of the key challenges include mitigating the disruption following Covid-19, supply chain issues, and labour shortages. Robots have particularly been useful in automotive supply chains.

While adopting robots cannot fix the issues across the automotive supply chain, they can speed things up drastically, ensuring high output in a short amount of time. Robots can aid in the assembly of vehicles by improving throughput and assisting in keeping up with demand. The initial manufacturing stages include welding, handling, and assembly, while later stages include robotic painting, finishes, and machine vision-quality control.

However, companies must apply robotics cautiously. General Motors is well known for its robotics adoption, but the company experienced significant disruption to its supply chain in the 1980s, when regularly malfunctioning robots spread paint across the plant and broke materials.

The firm could not produce goods as quickly as it wanted and suffered due to an inability to distribute its products. While the innovative use of robotics in the automotive sector is encouraged, a lack of preparation and research before tech implementation can put additional strain on supply chains.

Lara Virrey: Which barriers to implementation of robotic technologies remain in the automotive industry, and how could they be overcome?

Shabnam Pervez: While robots have been widely adopted in the automotive industry and can increase employee health and safety, the maintenance and adoption of robotics should be closely observed, as robotics is also a source of safety hazards in the workplace.

In 2015, a robot was involved in the death of a worker at a Volkswagen production plant in Germany. The 22-year-old was part of a team setting up the stationary robot when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate. Therefore, companies that wish to adopt robotics must tread carefully and ensure safety measures and precautions are implemented to ensure employees face minimal risk.

Lara Virrey: Which companies are the leading adopters of robotic technologies in the automotive sector?

Shabnam Pervez: Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence uses proprietary data, research, and analysis to provide a forward-looking perspective on the key themes that will shape the future of the world’s largest industries and the organisations within them.