At the end of 2019 through to the beginning of this year, robotics experts across multiple industries and stages of development and manufacturing began placing their bets on what the future of automation would look like in the new decade. The disruption of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has only proven that robotics will see strong growth for this year and beyond, even if not in the ways that we predicted at the beginning of the year.

Prediction 1: Mobility is King

While there have been several safety standards and regulations published for Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) types of industrial mobile robot platforms, the release of UL 3100 in 2018 and the upcoming release of ANSI/RIA R15.08 shows that standards committees are assigning greater importance to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

With the market growing at 19% annually – this is certainly no surprise. Forecasts published at the beginning of 2020 projected that the global autonomous mobile robot market was expected to reach $58.9 billion by 2026. How and where these robots will be deployed by manufacturers is yet to be determined, as these types of robots offer much more environmental adaptability than AGVs, which must follow pre-determined paths.

Prediction 2: Social Distancing Doesn’t Include Robots…

Many companies have been facing the problem of balancing increased demand (health and sanitation product manufacturing, supply chain distribution and delivery, etc.) with maintaining safety for employees. This will probably mean that they will be looking to automate as many tasks as possible so that people can be re-allocated for safer, less interactive tasks. Already, some robotics manufacturers have reported an increase in their sales to grocery stores, distribution centers, and hospitals. We will see increased implementation in all robot types, from AGVs to collaborative robots, even after plateau.

Prediction 3: Innovation on the Fly

The current climate will also accelerate technology growth as companies invent solutions in real time to meet new challenges. There will be substantial advances in electro-sensitive protective equipment vs. traditional guarding so that employee and robot movement alike will not be restricted by large and inert cages.

AI will also be moving at light speed and present large safety challenges (including cybersecurity and data privacy) that standards groups will need to overcome quickly.

My conclusion:

We don’t have to make any more predictions to know that safety will remain a top concern for manufacturers now and into the future. Innovative companies developing and implementing new robots need a compliance partner that can match their scope and vision.


Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Köster

Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Köster

Head of the Technical Competence Center Industrial Machinery

Head of the Technical Competence Center Industrial Machinery at TÜV Rheinland. Studied electrical engineering at the Technical University of Berlin. Started his career in 1996 in the electrical engineering test laboratory of TÜV Rheinland Japan in Yokohama. Since 2005 employed at TÜV Rheinland in Germany in the area of machine safety and laboratory manager for industrial machinery until 2020. Since 2020 global coordinator of the Machinery segment at TÜV Rheinland. Member of German and European committees in the area of machinery safety.

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