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Georgia Tech Survey of Advanced Technology and Robotics in U.S. Manufacturing

The Georgia Tech Survey of Advanced Technology and Robotics in U.S. Manufacturing was conducted to better understand U.S. manufacturers' use of robotics and automation technology and to generate real knowledge about their impacts on employment and manufacturing competitiveness. The study was conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF, Award #1637737), with survey data collection being conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey was conducted from 3/7/2018 to 11/7/2018. The survey was administered online. This website presents key survey results with Tableau - a data analytics and visualization tool.

Characteristics of Manufacturers Responding to Survey

During the survey period, a total of 428 responses from U.S manufacturing companies were collected. Initial sampling frames assigned equal sample sizes per census division, although supplemental samples were generated from public manufacturing databases from several states. from the largest number of respondents came from the Pacific division (87 respondents) followed by East North Central (81), West North Central (53), Middle Atlantic (52), and South Atlantic (51). Basic characteristics of survey respondents are shown below. Since 2010, approximately 10% of respondents reported that they had relocated to the U.S. some portion of establishment's current production work. The countries that were the source of the most production relocations were: China (16), Mexico (5), Canada (3), and Japan (3). Approximately 16% of respondents reported that their manufacturing establishment recently relocated some portion of its production work outside of the U.S. The primary receiving countries were: China (34 relocations), Mexico (11), and Taiwan (5).

Use of Advanced Technology in Manufacturing

We asked respondents about the adoption of advanced technologies in their manufacturing processes. Seven manufacturing technologies were specifically targeted. These included:
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Computer-aided design/manufacturing
  • Real-time monitoring technology
  • Advanced materials
  • CNC (computer numerical controls)
  • Robots

The adoption rates for each of the advanced technologies are presented in the dashboard below. They can be explored by employment size as well as industry sector. Survey findings indicate that large automotive and auto-related establishments are the most likely to adopt advanced technologies. On the other hand, a small establishment in a non-auto-related industry is less likely to adopt advanced technologies including robots.

Robots in Manufacturing

Among the 116 establishments reporting adoption of robots, 25 % adopted their first robots just in the last four years. Further, the robot adoption rate increased most among small and medium-sized companies and among a broader range of industry sectors. Survey respondents primarily employ robots for processing (i.e. cutting and grinding (46%), followed by machine tending (45%), welding and soldering (34%), and assembly/disassembly (34%).

Employment, Education, and Skills

Manufacturers in the survey reported significant new hiring between 2010-2017 (12%). The employment growth rate of establishments using robots is 22%, while that of establishments not using robots is 8%. Establishments that use robots paid slightly higher hourly wages in 2017, than those that did not use robots. There were no significant differences in educational requirements of employees between those establishments using robots and those not using robots (verified via statistical analysis).

The survey also sought to determine changes in skill requirements between 2010-2017. Most establishments reported that skill requirements of workers either stayed the same or increased during this period. In particular, skill requirements for problem solving, basic computer skills, and teamwork increased for the responding manufacturing establishments.