Survey Results: COVID-19 Impact on Automation Industry

How the global coronavirus pandemic has effected manufacturing, onshoring, new developments, and more

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the umbrella group for Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA - Advancing Vision + Imaging, Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA) and A3 Mexico, recently surveyed its members on the impact from COVID-19.

The 16-question survey asked respondents to consider various aspects of their business during this novel coronavirus pandemic.  Data collected included company roles within manufacturing, company size, and the current impact of the COVID-19 shutdown.  Other information provided showed plans for government stimulus money, investment plans for future automation, and onshoring business plan updates.

The entirety of the survey results can be found below.

As an association, A3 has been able to witness the critical role automation technology is playing to help safeguard people and processes during the global coronavirus crisis.  Our members, and all those involved in automation technology, are part of the large ecosystem making a difference in our battle with COVID-19.

Through these unprecedented times, we encourage the US government to expand its investments in robotics and automation.  We will continue to see how automation technologies are keeping people safe, helping develop new medicines and treatments, producing key products people need today, and filling other essential roles.

The goal of the survey results is to help our members devise more tools and strategies to stay competitive and relevant during this pandemic and in the immediate future as the United States starts opening back up again.

The majority of respondents work in automation engineering (25%) and marketing or sales (30%).  Within the manufacturing space, 19.5% of respondents operate as robot system integrators, while 11.2% are automation end users. 

As I’m sure resonates with you, the manufacturing workface is impacted by layoffs, furloughs, and wage cuts.  Those surveyed indicated the largest effects are hiring freezes in place, along with reduced hours of operation.  In some good news, 25% also say no changes have been made to the workforce.

How was your workforce directly impacted by COVID-19?

We asked how COVID-19 is impacting business in four critical areas: workforce; supply chain/operations; 2020 investments; and product offering.  The largest majority of respondents, more than 42%, indicated a limited impact from coronavirus on workforce, supply chain operations, and products.  However, almost 49% responded saying 2020 investments would be seriously threatened.

What is the level of impact from COVID-19 on your business currently?

When asked for further details on how COVID-19 has been influencing business, respondents’ answers showed common themes. Some specific impacts and side effects include:

  • Customer projects are being delayed, and customer visits are limited, if not shut down completely.
  • Inquiries for our product during the ‘work from home’ phase of the pandemic have actually increased, but too soon to tell if additional sales will result since the overall economic impact and duration of the shutdown is unknown.
  • Our solutions are in higher demand; COVID-19 is bringing new opportunities
  • Disruption to manufacturing and push-out of customer orders due to THEIR disruption of manufacturing
  • New projects are delayed or furloughed
  • Orders are 3x the normal level
  • Majority of Research & Development has stopped

Recently, the information collected from this survey was utilized in a CEO Roundtable webinar from A3 called: How COVID-19 is Impacting the Robotics Industry – Perspectives from CEOs.  Originally presented on April 8, 2020, you can still watch the recording for free.  The webinar covered topics including:

  • What’s currently happening to robotics companies amidst COVID-19
  • How COVID-19 is impacting the global supply chain
  • How robotics is helping society through this global pandemic
  • Trends to watch for in the robotics industry after COVID-19
  • Advice from CEOs on how to succeed during a global pandemic

Webinar panelists included:

  • Mike Cicco, President and CEO, FANUC America
  • Milton Guerry, President, SCHUNK, and President of the International Federation of Robotics
  • Melonee Wise, CEO and Founder, Fetch Robotics
  • Jürgen von Hollen, President, Universal Robots