Investing in automation and robotics – How are companies capitalising on robotics and what does this mean for investors?

What is Automation?

Automation is the creation and application of technologies to improve or optimise processes. Automation began life on the factory floor, with automotive  companies aiming to improve manufacturing techniques, but has since evolved to influence multiple aspects of how we live and work.

What are the potential benefits of investing in Automation?

Automation can help companies:

  • Increase efficiency and lower costs
  • Improve reliability and consistency
  • Perform highly sophisticated and delicate tasks
  • Work safely alongside human workers
  • Keep pace with customers’ increasingly on-demand preferences

While we are still in the early stages of this disruptive trend, its long-term potential seems evident to a growing number of equity investors. And with an opportunity set across both larger and smaller companies, robotics is increasingly being recognised as a viable investment and potentially superior growth area. 

Expected annual growth of the global robotics market until 2025.

Source: BofA Merrill Lynch - Fancy forklifts, smart warehouses (July 2018)

To help investors tap into the multi-decade investment potential of automation, our Robotech strategy focusses on the investable area of the robotics market. This includes:

  • Industrial Automation: Technologies helping companies increase precision, reliability and efficiency across industries.
  • Transport: Technological advances focusing on vehicle safety and the pathway towards autonomous vehicles. Additional opportunities outside of the car industry in areas such as agriculture and mining.
  • Healthcare: Companies involved in robotic surgery, assistance and remote healthcare.
  • Technology Enablers: The intelligence that powers and controls robotics. This provides the sensors, connectivity and intelligence used to gather and analyse information

Why invest in automation now?

The demand for industrial robots has accelerated in recent years due to the ongoing trend towards automation and innovative technological advancements. Advances in technology have made robots capable of performing highly sophisticated and delicate work as well as working alongside humans to drive productivity and efficiency.

We believe this is just the beginning of a multi-decade theme:

Worldwide supply of industrial robots (units in thousands)

*Forecast. Source: AXA IM.  Chart: IFR World Robotics 2018.  Performance results of the past are not a reliable indicator for any future returns or trends. The growth of the global robotics market is not a reliable indicator of performance of the securities/companies which will be selected.

As robots become smarter, more flexible and increasingly capable of working alongside humans, they are being used across more industries:
Alongside the automotive market, the semiconductor and electronics industry is the main user of industrial robots.
The food and beverage industry has been one of the fastest-growing areas in terms of robotic use over the past few years.
Robotic precision is also useful for repetitive or dangerous jobs, such as hazardous materials testing.

Source: International Federation of Robotics as at 18 September 2019

Robots are also becoming more affordable while labour cost is increasing and the working population is shrinking in many countries.

Robots are also becoming more affordable while labour cost is increasing and the working population is shrinking in many countries.



Source: Left-hand chart: BofA Merrill Lynch Thematic Investing, Robot Revolution – Global Robot & AI Primer, November 2015[IA1] [YI2] , Oxford Economics; Right-hand chart: ABB, Economic Justification for Industrial Robotic Systems, 2007[IA3] [YI4] ; International Federation of Robotics, World Robots.

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