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Six facts about autonomous work that you need to know

Industrial companies — including those in the construction, agriculture and mining industries — are accelerating autonomous work. But how are their investments paying off, and what benefits are they experiencing?

In December 2022, we asked 160+ C-suite executives, directors, managers and supervisors in construction, agriculture and mining to weigh in on autonomous technology. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Autonomy tech investments are happening today—and tomorrow

The majority of the leaders we spoke to are committed to investing in autonomous technology—and have already started their journeys toward autonomous work.

Nearly all respondents (87%) say that their organization invested in autonomy in the last year. Another 6% say their organization planned to make autonomy investments last year, but the investments were delayed.

By 2028, more leaders in these three markets plan to invest in autonomous technology. 

2. Economic uncertainty makes autonomy an even higher priority

Inflation, a potential recession and demand volatility are driving construction, agriculture and mining companies toward autonomous technology so they can prepare for the future. 

In fact, 75% of respondents believe the current economic environment makes autonomy investments an even higher priority. These forward-thinking companies often view autonomous technology as one way to hedge against labor challenges and rising costs.

3. C-suite leaders look forward to cost reductions from autonomous work

While improved safety, fewer mistakes, and a stronger competitive advantage are all benefits of autonomous work, 54% of respondents pinpoint cost reductions as the most valuable outcome they hope to experience through their future autonomy investments. 

Additionally, respondents identified completing more work with fewer people, getting more done in less time, and improving quality as values they plan to derive from autonomous technology.

4. Full ROI is anticipated within five years on autonomous tech projects

Expectations are high for autonomy return on investment (ROI). Payback can be achieved through time savings, reduced labor costs, less rework, new revenue opportunities, and improved customer satisfaction, leading to more sales.

Nearly half of the surveyed leaders (48%) believe they will recoup autonomy investments in one to three years. Another 26% expect to recoup autonomy investments in four to five years.

5. Efficiency drives leaders to invest more in autonomous work

What motivates these companies to put their hard-earned dollars toward autonomous technology? Efficiency increases top the list at 70%, followed by improvements in sustainability at 62% and labor benefits at 56%.

6. Costs aren’t the biggest obstacle to autonomy—resources are

Suppose these company leaders are holding back on autonomous technology. In that case, it’s likely for one of three reasons: 

  • They lack internal expertise (41%)

  • They believe that workers still need to be involved in autonomous technology (39%)

  • They aren’t sure if they trust autonomous tech (31%)

Cost is last on the list of top autonomy hesitations.

Take a Deeper Dive: Investments in Autonomous Technology Are on the Rise — Even in an Uncertain Economy

Trimble and Industry Dive surveyed 160+ C-suite executives, directors, managers and supervisors in construction, agriculture and mining. These leaders gave us an inside look at where and how they’re using autonomy now and their plans for the future. 

To access the complete set of exclusive data and expert insights shared in the research report, click here.