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Understanding Robot Density and the Smart Industry Readiness Index

Understanding Robot Density and the Smart Industry Readiness Index: Insights from the World Economic Forum

The integration of advanced technologies such as robotics and automation is transforming the ways that businesses operate in today’s rapidly evolving industrial landscape. The concept of robot density and initiatives like the Smart Industry Readiness Index, championed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), provide valuable insights into the readiness of industries to embrace smart manufacturing practices. Here we’ll explore the significance of robot density and the Smart Industry Readiness Index in driving the development of Industry 4.0.

Robot Density: Defining the Metric

Robot density is specific to the number of operational industrial robots relative to the number of workers. Applied either to the entire manufacturing industry or particular sectors, it serves as a key indicator of automation adoption and technological advancement across different countries. Those with higher levels of robot density typically benefit from greater productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness in manufacturing.

Studies by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) revealed that robot installations hit a record of 555,032 units in 2022, with 3.9 million industrial robots in operation across the world. The Republic of Korea was recorded as having the highest level of robot density (1,012 robots per 10,000 employees), followed by Singapore (730 units) and Germany (415 units). However, the UK lagged behind comparable nations such as the US, Germany, and Italy, with 98 robots per 10,000 people.

There has been considerable variation in the level of automation across industries, with 157,000 installations in the international electronics sector, followed by 136,000 in the automotive sector, and 66,000 in the metalworking industry. It has been estimated that there will be 600,000 new robot installations in 2024.

IFR President Marina Bill said, “The speed of robotics adoption in factories around the world is impressive: the new global average robot density hit an all-time high of 151 robots per 10,000 employees – more than double the number measured only six years ago.”

The Impact of Robot Density

There is a direct link between the levels of robot density and automation, with the leading nations having the most optimised manufacturing processes. Such countries realise the benefits of accelerated production speed, precision, and quality. Automation-driven productivity gains are also known to have a bearing on economic growth, driving innovation and creating new job opportunities in high-skilled sectors.

The adoption of automated technologies allows for the restructuring of supply chains, with production increasingly returning to the countries of origin. It also makes for the accumulation of manufacturing knowledge, which is vital for the attraction and retention of talent.

However, greater levels of robot density also result in concerns over job displacement and income inequality. Such issues indicate the need for more inclusive policies and workforce development initiatives. There’s an apparent need for educational change, with a high proportion of businesses lacking confidence in the sufficient availability of people with the skills and knowledge needed for technological roles.

Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI)

Introduced by the World Economic Forum, the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI), establishes the readiness of industries to adopt and implement smart manufacturing practices. Such readiness is measured against the four key dimensions of technology, organisation, people, and ecosystem.

Industry stakeholders view the SIRI as a comprehensive framework to gauge preparedness for Industry 4.0. Organisations can benchmark performance against the framework for the prioritisation of improvement and development of strategic roadmaps for digital transformation.

The World Economic Forum is working with key industry partners to promote the adoption of SIRI as the international standard for Industry 4.0 benchmarking and transformation. This is proving successful, with more than 850 manufacturing companies from 30 different countries having completed the Official SIRI Assessment (OSA). These companies have benefited from the sharing of helpful concepts, with the evaluation of their facilities against industry competitors, and the setting of roadmaps for successful transformation.

Certified SIRI Assessor Dr Andreas Hauser highlighted the challenge for global manufacturers in keeping pace with the wide range of technological developments. He said, “The Official SIRI Assessment is a powerful resource to help companies separate the substance from the noise and synthesise the essence of Industry 4.0 into an easy-to-understand universal framework to start things off on the right foot.”

Driving Digital Transformation

Robot density and the Smart Industry Readiness Index serve as valuable tools for policymakers, industry leaders, and stakeholders to navigate the complexities of digital transformation.

Governments can draw on robot density insights for the development of policies to boost innovation, investment in technology infrastructure, and workforce reskilling. And businesses can use the SIRI framework for the assessment of digital maturity together with the prioritisation of investments in technology and talent. This should allow for the forging of strategic partnerships and acceleration of the journey to Industry 4.0.

Vital Steps for Success

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds organisations should understand the dynamics of robot density and embrace frameworks such as the Smart Industry Readiness Index. These will be keys to success in the increasingly digital and interconnected world. In harnessing the power of automation and smart manufacturing practices businesses can drive sustainable growth, foster innovation, and create shared prosperity for society as a whole.

Automate UK continues to play a leading role in supporting well-informed technology decisions and aiding growth in this increasingly competitive digital age.