Mentions of industrial automation within the filings of companies in the railway industry were 96% higher between July 2020 and June 2021 than in 2016, according to the latest analysis of data from GlobalData.

When companies in the railway industry publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Industrial automation is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether industrial automation is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of companies in the railway industry, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned industrial automation at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 66% compared to 49% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to industrial automation.

Of the 50 biggest employers in the railway industry, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc was the company which referred to industrial automation the most between July 2020 and June 2021. GlobalData identified 243 industrial automation-related sentences in the United States-based company's filings - 3.7% of all sentences. ID Logistics Group mentioned industrial automation the second most - the issue was referred to in 1.9% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high industrial automation mentions included XPO Logistics Inc, Hitachi Transport System, Ltd. and Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering Co Ltd.

Across all companies in the railway industry the filing published in the second quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on industrial automation came from Royal Mail Plc. Of the document's 1,153 sentences, 12 (1%) referred to industrial automation.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on industrial automation and how important the issue is considered within the railway industry, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning industrial automation more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into industrial automation have been successes or failures.

In the last quarter, companies in the railway industry based in the United States were most likely to mention industrial automation with 0.22% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in Asia mentioned industrial automation in just 0.09% of sentences.

By Andrew Hillman.