Industrial robots survive economic slowdown |

Industrial robots survive economic slowdown

Industrial robots survive economic slowdown

August 30, 2012 - Despite the weakening global economic situation, a further robot sales increase of about nine percent to about 181,000 units is likely in 2012. The IFR Statistical Department expects that between 2013 and 2015 worldwide robot sales will increase by about 5% on average per year. In 2015, the annual supply of industrial robots will reach more than 200,000 units.

In 2012, the sales increase is still mainly be driven by the automotive industry and the electronics industry as well as by the increasing number of customers with low-volume orders from other industries. The main impulses are coming from North America, China, Brazil and Central- and Eastern European countries as well as from Japan due to the restoration production facilities which were damaged by the tsunami catastrophe.

The urgent need to automate production is the main driver for an accelerated pace of installations of industrial robots in the United States and Canada. Robot supply to the Republic of Korea will only moderately grow after the strong investments of the past years. Robot sales will increase in 2012 and beyond in Taiwan because of major investments from the electronics industry. Robot sales in Germany will reach almost the peak level of 2011 while in Italy and Spain a decrease due to the worsening of the economic situation is likely. 

China will become the biggest robot market in the world regarding the annual supply. In order to have the same robot density in China as we have in Germany or Japan, about one million new robots will have to be installed in the coming years in China. The global robot suppliers are aware of this potential and are increasing their capacities. Furthermore, the Chinese robot suppliers are in the process of entering the market or have already entered the market. There are some manufacturers of cartesian/linear robots already in China. However, the growth rate of robot installations will loose momentum in 2012 after the strong increase in the past years. The current difficult global economic situation and the probably ending investment cycle of the automotive industry may be the reasons.

At the end of 2011, only about 55 robots are installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry in the world. The Republic of Korea, Japan and Germany are the most automated countries in the world with robot densities between 347 and 261. In most emerging markets the robot density or in other words the rate of automation is still far below average.

Compared to all other sectors the rate of automation in the automotive industry is rather high. Japan, has by far the highest robot density in the automotive industry, almost 1,600 industrial robots are installed per 10,000 persons employed. It is followed by Italy, Germany and the United States with a robot density between 1,100 and 1,200. With rates of 261 and 221 robots, respectively, the Republic of Korea and Japan have the highest number of robots operating in the non-automotive sectors. This is mainly due to robot installations in the electronics industry. In Germany, the considerable high rate of 137 robots is due to a more diversified distribution of industrial robots in all industries, especially in the metal industry, the chemical industry, the food industry and the electrical/electronics industry.

The overall conclusions indicate that in almost all the surveyed countries, not only the potential for robot installations in the non-automotive industries is still tremendous, but it is also considerably high in the automotive industry among the emerging markets and in some traditional markets as well.

Risks and chances
The opening up of huge consumer markets in the BRIC countries, in South East Asia, in Turkey and also in the Middle Eastern countries will guarantee the increasing consumer demand which is necessary for further investments in automation within these countries. Energy-efficiency and light weight construction materials are the main challenges for the manufacturing industry. The automotive industry will continue to be the innovator for new technology. However, a cyclical decrease of investments of the automotive industry is likely in 2013 and 2014. The electrical/electronics industry will continue to automate in order to increase productivity and to improve quality of work for employees especially in Asia. More easy-to-use robots as well as robots collaborating with human workers will increase robot sales in small and medium size companies. Improved and easier integration of industrial robots will provide more applications for industrial robots. But these are not the only reasons for the further increase of robot sales. Dangerous, tedious and dirty working conditions for human workers must be abolished worldwide. Robots provide the only solution.

Certain risks are involved with regard to this rather optimistic forecast: Financial problems of the major markets may reduce growth of the world economy or even cause a recession. This may result in decreasing investments also in robotics. In that case, planned investments might be restrained for a while. The trend towards automation will continue at a later point in order to increase productivity, profitability and to guarantee sustainability of industrial production.

2011: The most successful year for industrial robots since 1961
In 2011, robot supplies increased by 38% to 166,028 units, by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. The value of sales surged by 46% to US$8.5 billion, a new record. It should be noted that this value generally do not include the cost of software, peripherals and systems engineering. Including the mentioned costs might result in the actual robotic systems market value to be about three times as high. The worldwide market value for robot systems in 2011 is therefore estimated to be $25.5 billion.

In 2011, Japan was again the biggest robot market in the world. Robot supplies to Japan continued to recover and increased by 27% to almost 28,000 units. The automotive industry and most of all other sectors were increasing robot investments above average. Robot sales increased by 9% to 25,500 units in the Republic of Korea. After the huge investments of the electrical/electronics industry in 2010 - when Korea had topped the list - the increase was only moderately in 2011. In the United States robot shipments increased by 43% to a new peak level of 20,555 units in 2011 compared to 2010. The necessary modernization of the production facilities in the United States is gaining momentum. In 2011, 22,600 industrial robots were sold to the People’s Republic of China, 51% more than in 2010. Between 2006 and 2011, the annual supply quadrupled. In the 50 years of the history of industrial robots there is no other country with such a dynamic growth of robot installations in such a short period of time. 19,500 new industrial robots were supplied to Germany – the biggest robot market in Europe - 39% more than in 2010. After the strong recovery in 2010, this is by far the highest number ever recorded for one year and it is about 45% of the total supply to Europe. Total sales of industrial robots were up by 13% to 5,100 units in Italy. The automotive industry, food and beverage industry and the metal and machinery industry increased robot orders above average.

The study World Robotics Industrial Robots of the IFR Statistical Department is based on original data provided by almost all robot suppliers in the world and on statistics of national robot associations. The results are discussed and verified by the IFR Industrial Robot Suppliers Group before publication. This unique publication of high quality data presents the most comprehensive global statistics on industrial robots in uniform tables allowing consistent country comparisons. It contains detailed statistical data for some 40 countries, broken down by application areas, industrial branches, types of robots and by other technical and economic variables. Data on production, exports and imports are presented for a selection of countries. Trends in robot densities, i.e. number of robots per 10,000 persons employed in relevant sectors, are also featured.

The International Federation of Robotics was established in 1987 in connection with the 17th International Symposium on Robotics, as a professional non-profit organisation, by robotics organisations from over 15 countries. Since 1970 an International Symposium on Robotics is organised every year on a different continent, in a different country and another city. The Symposium is systematically organised in conjunction with an International Robot Exhibition. 


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