Large scale automation expected by 2030: Yokogawa survey reveals

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Industry Automation
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A recent global end-user survey conducted by Japanese Industrial Automation solutions provider Yokogawa Electric Corporation reveals that 64 percent of process industry companies across the globe anticipate fully autonomous operations by 2030. 

The survey on the outlook for industrial autonomy provides an in-depth view of future trends in automation and autonomy, technologies and business priorities being deployed in key process industries including petrochemicals, oil and gas, power generation, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

Key takeaways from the survey

  • Organizations across the globe are pivoting towards fully autonomous operations by 2030 and are expected to make considerable investments in technologies that aid decision-making.
  • As much as sixty-four percent of respondents expect to have autonomous operations in their primary operations by 2030.
  • As much as eighty-nine percent of organizations surveys have plans to increase the level of autonomy in their operations.
  • Sixty-four percent of organizations that participated in the survey are conducting or trying out semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operation improvements.
  • Moreover, sixty-seven percent of the survey participants anticipate significant automation of most decision-making processes in plant operations by 2023.
  • Organizations are planning to make significant investments into pivotal sectors such as cybersecurity (51 percent), cloud, analytics, and big data (47 percent), and artificial intelligence (42 percent) over the next three years which will enable them to make better decisions across a greater span of control.

The respondents remark that even though COVID-19 has put the brakes on economic growth in 2020, it will be a catalyst for the medium- to long-term growth of industrial autonomy.

“COVID-19 has arguably presented a great impetus for industrial autonomy moving forward. A higher priority is now being placed on the ability to continue running operations without workers needing to be present. A majority of respondents are expecting to increase their investment in autonomous operations as a direct result of Covid-19,” the survey says.

Organizations chose remote operations (36 percent) and remote servicing (30 percent) as the topmost applications in which they were directing investment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey also uncovered significant differences across industries in post-COVID-19 investment priorities. For example, compared with other industries, conventional power generation and chemical/petrochemical participants placed a greater focus on investments in worker safety.

Regional trends

Compared to other regions, Asia-Pacific is the most engaged in the shift to industrial autonomy as organizations in the region has provided considerably higher priority (18 percent more than the second best region) on investments in autonomous systems for operations

Seventy-one percent of respondents in Asia-Pacific felt that they would attain fully autonomous operations in ten years’ time, compared with just 58% in North America and 56% in Western Europe.

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Tsuyoshi Abe
Senior VP & Head -Marketing HQ

“From this research study, we have confirmed our perception that the shift from industrial automation to industrial autonomy, which we call IA2IA, is going to gain momentum over the next decade. As Covid-19 will accelerate this trend, and companies’ interest in introducing related technologies continues to be strong, Yokogawa can support customers in strengthening their competitiveness step by step based upon our roadmap to autonomous operations.”

Mr. Yokogawa believes the digital transformation of companies’ manufacturing and production operations will lead to autonomous operations. He added that the results of the survey demonstrate that companies are prioritizing and investing in the technologies of tomorrow in order to make this a reality.