IFR Robotics and Economical Worldwide Downturn
The economical worldwide downturn is still going on, with no real signs of light at the end of the tunnel. The announcement that General Motor's CEO was asked to step down, sent another shockwave through Wall Street. The financial crisis has affected the global economy to a greater extend than expected. A recovery depends on a large extent of the banks and their willingness and ability to provide financing, which requires substantial government loans and support. This can still take a long time. In addition, the consumers' confidence is severely hurt and will take time to rebuild.
We have seen some encouraging signs of expansion of the use of robotics in the General Industry, until the financial melt down happened. These areas outside of Automotive, has on top of it, a whole other set of challenges to deal with. Training and knowledge spread will be needed, and significant increase in integration capacity connected to it. On the same time, this will create opportunity for IFR to help, once the wheels start rolling again.
With this crisis cloud hanging over us, the robotics community still met in Barcelona recently for the 40th International Symposium on Robotics, the IFR meetings and the Maquitec show. Despite the difficult situation, or because of it, more people than usually attended the IFR meetings. And they came from all over the world: Europe, North America, China, India, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The discussions in the IFR meetings focused on the economical situation and the future of robotics. Robot suppliers from all countries are faced with a tremendous breakdown of the incoming orders. Investments in all industries are retained worldwide. The manufacturing industry seems to be in a state of shock. This situation became also evident at the Marquitec exhibition: fewer exhibitors and visitors.
But we also heard an interesting presentation on "Automation in India" at the Industrial Robot Suppliers meeting indicating the great potential of this market. Also, our new member association ROBOAT from Taiwan reported on the robotics market in Taiwan and the scheduled activities to boost this industry especially the service robotics area during the General Assembly.
The 2009 Engelberger Robotics Award, the industry's highest honor, was presented to two industry pioneers at the ISR Gala Diner: Dr. Robin Felder of the University of Virginia School of Medicine States received the award for Leadership. Shigeo Hirose of the Tokyo Institute of Technology received the award in the category of Technology Development. Press release
Finally the ISR sessions showed innovations of the robotics industry, which indicate the incentives and the prospects of robot investments.
Considering all discussions, presentations and impressions around the robotics events in Barcelona we came to the conclusion: Although no reliable forecast of the development of robot sales in 2009 is possible at the moment, we trust that on a medium-term (2010 - 2012) the robot supplies will again increase.
The networking and the exchange of ideas with partners from all over the world, are important services to all IFR members. More improved services will be provided with the new website re-launch of the IFR, in summer 2009. Especially users of robots and integrators but also the press will be attracted by more information and a better navigation system.
I have started my IFR presidency in a difficult period, which unfortunately still became worse. But the robotics industry as the key factor for automation is the one and only manufacturing technology to meet the increasing demands for time-to-market, productivity, quality, environmental protection and healthy working environment.