Industry in the time of robots

An in-depth analysis of the barriers and challenges surrounding automation in modern manufacturing.

Automation is creating new opportunities for safer, cleaner and more productive work environments. In the face of this change, the primary objective of manufacturers remains the same. They must keep globally competitive by saving time, reducing costs and responding more effectively to customer demands. Mobile robots are already widely used in manufacturing facilities and centers. Here, they can help optimize order picking, cycle counting, and material and product movement. Deploying a new generation of smart autonomous vehicles with sensor technology can provide even further opportunities for optimization.

However, to gain optimal value from AMR, businesses must be confident in the benefits of this new technology and fully understand the potential barriers to implementing it. To find out more, we reached out to top level decision makers from across the world including at DHL, Toyota, Keurig and Siemens*. Not only did we gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and barriers today’s manufacturers face as outlined in this report. But we were also able to recognize five clear maturity profiles of business leaders in relation to their adoption of supply chain automation.

Thomas Visti, CEO

*We spoke to 117 US business leaders across a variety of industries including Automotive, Electronics, 3rd party logistics and FMCG. The report was complemented with 20 interviews with global management representatives from manufacturers and distributors including DHL, Toyota, Siemens and Keurig. Further insight was gathered from desktop research and analysis of publicly available information relevant to the objective of the study


Meeting market demands
with innovation

As the pressure increases on manufacturers to keep production high and costs low, while consumer and market demands fluctuate, supply chains are becoming increasingly complex.

Add to the picture a shrinking workforce, changing legislation and stiff foreign competition, it can feel like business is no longer about competing but survival.
In order to ensure a competitive edge, business leaders must invest in futureproof technology and prioritize responsive processes. However, while automation has transformed manufacturing over the years, there are still implementation gaps in the supply chain. Autonomous mobile robots have the potential to provide significant business value here, by facilitating a lean, optimized supply chain. In fact, the vast majority of industry leaders we spoke to expect AMR to have a positive impact on the future of their industry.

Most also believe it will be realistic to implement AMR into their internal logistics within the next five years, if not sooner. However, while the adoption rate of AMR varies between industries, one thing is unanimous – investment in innovation sees no sign of slowing. Barriers that could delay or prevent implementation – such as unclear business value, workforce competencies and cyber security concerns, must be addressed.

of US business leaders find keeping pace with changing market demands challenging.

Executive Summary

Our report highlighted three key areas where business leaders faced challenges to the implementation of AMR:


Unclear business value

While early adopters of AMR have seen real and measurable results, there can be a reluctance from some manufacturers to invest in technology while it’s still in its infancy. A lack of clear insight into the business value of automation can drive this. But as old-fashioned processes struggle to keep up with increasingly complex supply chains, business leaders must prioritize gaining this insight, or run the risk of being left behind.


78% are thinking about implementing AMR in the next two years.

find it challenging to increase production capacity without creating a need for extra space or labor


Workplace concerns

Today’s supply chains must be innovative, flexible and high-tech in order to keep up with fluctuating market demands. This puts tough pressure on manufacturers to operate in new proactive ways while keep safety standards high. While AMR can improve processes, a competent and willing workforce is needed to complement this technology. Our report found three clear barriers to achieving this.


Digital vulnerabilities

System security is an understandable concern for business leaders wanting to implement digital technology in the workplace. They are squeezed by the need to innovate, yet at the same time must safeguard their business and staff. In order to benefit from the business gains that automation can provide, decision makers must be fully aware of the security challenges that must be overcome.


82% have concerns about cyber security.

The five maturity profiles of automation

Statistical analysis of our report created five clear maturity profiles of business leaders in relation to their adoption of supply chain automation.

The closer to the outer lines, the greater the concern
about one of the following areas.

01: Unclear business value

Do you have everything you need to create a compelling business case?

02: Workforce concerns

Can you be sure that you have a willing and able workforce?

03: Digital vulnerabilities

How confident are you that your work systems are secure?


You’re leading the way when it comes to implementing best practises in your industry. You’re aware how optimizing internal processes can help you conquer external challenges. For you, inaction towards an increasingly complex supply chain is a risk you don’t want to take.
Are you a Trail-Blazer? Find out here!


You’re determined to prioritize innovative processes and technologies that will give you the competitive business edge. You’re a first adopter who aims to create success by being proactive and finding your own path, rather than copying others. Are you a Path-Finder? Find out here!


You recognize the potential of looking for efficiency gains in your internal logistics and have big ideas. However, you can be cautious when adopting new technology. You often prefer to adapt the paths of others to meet your specific needs. Are you a Course-Corrector? Find out here!


You are open to using new technology for a more efficient, accurate and productive supply chain. You realize that early adopters can stay ahead of the competition. However, you have some concerns and may apply caution until you have a clearer path to follow.
Are you a Map-Reader? Find out here!


You’re aware that your supply chain might not be up to function in facing current and future challenges. Yet, you are reluctant to prioritize investment in automation. Until the solutions become more commonplace, you’re going to tough it out.
Are you a Final-Adopter? Find out here!

How advanced is your
supply chain?

There are five maturity profiles of supply chain automation. Which one are you?