Automating industrial processes is nothing new. Some industries like agriculture have been progressively automating for centuries. In fact, there was a time when agriculture accounted for the majority of the U.S. workforce. Today, it’s less than 1.4 percent of the U.S. workforce, even though we’ve tripled the number of agricultural acres during that time.
It’s not Moore’s Law — but it’s pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, not all industries have been equally successful at harnessing automation. Historically, automation has only been practical for processes that are highly structured and unchanging and only economical for processes that have achieved scale.
Automotive assembly lines are inherently rigid and don’t change for years, so they make prime candidates for automation. But many industries that value flexibility and continuous process improvement have missed out on the benefits of automation.
Fortunately, advances in hardware, computer vision, and machine learning have enabled robotic solutions that can deliver the benefits of automation without giving up on process flexibility or requiring scale to make economic sense.
The market for industrial automation solutions is expected to grow to more than $250 billion in the next three years. With labor shortages across a number of sectors, it’s now more important than ever to optimize around our human capital.
At Playground Global, we’ve spent the last six years investing in seminal companies making workers safer and more productive using complementary strategies. By removing the menial and sometimes dangerous tasks, we can free up scarce employees to do more meaningful work. Examples include:
- Agility Robotics has created the first practical human scale robot that we can quite literally hand tasks that we don’t want to do. The company provides unique value to businesses by augmenting the human workforce’s productivity, efficiency, and wellness.
- Farmwise builds autonomous tractors to weed vegetable crops that are still commonly weeded by hand. Using computer vision and deep learning, Farmwise robots have scanned over 450 million individual plants, recognizing every leaf, every insect and every instance of disease. By giving workers superpowers, we can get more done with greater satisfaction.
- Robust AI is making collaborative robots that we already know how to use. Its new mobile warehouse robot Carter has the ability to read human body language and interpret what workers around it are doing. Applied to the warehouse industry, the robot helps maximize human-machine teamwork and boost productivity.
- Artificial provides lab automation that lets scientists focus on the science instead of the operations. Its product suite helps orchestrate the people, software, hardware, and data in labs through an easy-to-use platform, allowing researchers to operate their lab efficiently, reliably, and error-free.
- Relativity Space has invented an automation solution that is so revolutionary, it enabled a completely new process. Instead of automating the traditional hand assembly process that others use to build rockets, relatively space creates robots that can 3D print rockets, enabling their engineers to design, build and test 10 times faster.
We believe the future of automation will enable more businesses to streamline timelines, accelerate value delivery, and unlock greater commercial opportunity. Playground Global remains committed to meeting some of the world’s toughest challenges head-on by investing in the best ideas and people. We are proud to join our portfolio companies in the development of these revolutionary approaches and look forward to partnering with more entrepreneurs using technology to build the future we all deserve.
Learn more at www.playground.global