The international race towards better robotic technology is in full swing. There are so many possibilities as to what robotic technology can do for different industries and sectors of society. Robotics is impacting healthcare, manufacturing, farming, scientific research, transportation, home automation, and many other sectors. ABB, a leading robotics manufacturer, together with The Economist released a report last year that ranked 25 countries on their automation readiness. Three countries, South Korea, Germany, and Singapore, topped the list in this very competitive and far-reaching technology space.
Assessing Automation Readiness
Extensive research and comparison were used to create the report known as “The Automation Readiness Index: Who Is Ready for the Coming Wave of Innovation?” The creators needed to find a way to assess different nations on their preparedness for a highly automated society. As many as 52 different indicators were used to get a fuller picture of the adoption of technology in the countries looked at.
Some of the indicators that were looked were the policies that these nations had in place for their education and labor markets. Also of importance was a consideration of how innovative the environment was in these countries. It is evident that technology innovation thrives best when it is not hampered by outdated policies and a reluctance to embrace change. Government spending on innovation and technology also had a major bearing on the rankings.
Also in the top five were Japan and Canada. In the sixth through to tenth positions were Estonia, followed by France, then the U.K., the U.S., and finally Australia. The study also showed that, while high incomes nations are investing heavily in technology, middle-income countries are more manufacturing based, and lower income nations depend more on agriculture to sustain their economies.
The Technology and Its Importance
The report focused on three technologies in particular that are changing the world we live in, and these are robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence. While investing in research requires lots of government and private sector funding, the goal is that new designs and technologies can be produced more affordably in the future. This is going to allow them to be used widely.
As governments embrace the potential benefits of automation research and development, the race is only going to pick up speed. A brief look at the three leading nations as far as automation readiness reveals some of the actions they are taking to embrace this inevitable shift.
Leading the Robot Race in South Korea
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) measures robotic density as the number of robots in use for every 10,000 workers in a particular industry. In their 2016 look at the robotics density in the manufacturing sectors, they found that the global average was 74 industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing employees. South Korea topped the global list with 631 robots. The automatic and electronics industries there are highly automated.
One of the things that South Korea is doing right is pumping millions of dollars into corporate research and development centers. This is being done with the strategic goal of expanding their robotic footprint even further in the next few years.
In 2016, Germany had a robotic density of 309 industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing employees. This made Germany the most automated country in Europe. It continues to increase its robot use in the automotive and general industries. Although Germany ranked behind Singapore in this ranking, in the 2018 automation readiness, Germany ranked ahead.
In 2016, the nation of Singapore had a robotic density of 488 industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees. Most of these were in the electronics industry, but with a smaller chunk being using in the healthcare, service, and construction industries. The National Robotics Program launched in the same year increased government funding for this sector.