The robotics industry is looking into a bright future
2013-2016: High demand for industrial robots is continuing
"The robotics industry is looking into a bright future!" stated Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara, IFR President, on the occasion of the publication of the study "World Robotics 2013 - Industrial Robots", on Wednesday. "In 2013, global robot sales will increase by about 2% to 162,000 units. The IFR Statistical Department expects that between 2014 and 2016 worldwide robot sales will increase by about 6% on average per year. In 2016, the annual supply of industrial robots will reach more than 190,000 units."
2013: Demand will vary among the regions and the industries
In 2013, the demand of the automotive industry will start to slow down in certain markets after three years of continued increasing robot installations in the traditional as well as the emerging markets. The electrical/electronics industry will increase robot investments in production automation as well as in retooling for new production processes. A further increase of robot orders from other industries is also expected, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry, the food and beverage industry, and the metal and machinery industry.
Growth of robot sales is expected in North America, Brazil, the Republic of Korea, China, in most of all other South East Asian markets as well as in most of the Central and Eastern European markets, and in Turkey. Robot sales to Japan will decrease due to the continuing weak economic position of its electrical/electronics industry. Also in Germany a decrease in robot sales is likely after the significant robot investments of the automotive industry over the past three years. The United Kingdom is in a similar situation and will also have a reduction in robot installations in 2013. Due to the continuing tight economic situation, robot sales will either decrease or stagnate in Italy, France and Spain. However due to the more complex robot systems entering the market, the increase in turnover might be higher, just as in 2011 and 2012.
Promising prospects for 2014-2016
The IFR Statistical Department estimates a further growth of robot installations between 2014 and 2016 by 6% on average per year. "The growth is based on huge potentials of further penetration of the industrial segments like electronics or food and on the on-going industrialization of the emerging countries. But there are even additional growth potentials in the future based on breathtaking advanced and innovative technological developments", commented Dr. Andreas Bauer, Chairman of the IFR Industrial Robot Suppliers Group the IFR forecast. "These technologies are opening doors to completely new applications for robots. Impressive for me are the developments regarding human-robot cooperation and opportunities that are provided in new fields for automation, especially in areas where no robots are currently used."
The challenges and opportunities are:
- Cost-efficiency requirements drive higher levels of automation globally.
- Energy-efficiency and new materials, e.g. carbon-composites, require retooling of production.
- Growing consumer markets require expansion of production capacities.
- Decreasing life-cycles of products and increasing variety of products require flexible automation.
- Technical improvements of industrial robots will increase the use of robots in the general industry and in small and medium sized companies, e.g. easier to use robots for simple applications, collaboration of robots with human workers.
- Improved quality requires sophisticated high tech robot systems.
- Robots improve the quality of work by taking over dangerous, tedious and dirty jobs that are not possible or safe for humans to perform.
"Whilst these challenges are not insignificant, they are also far from insurmountable. In fact, our industry and governments around the world have already made significant progress in addressing them. They represent exciting opportunities for us and should be embraced to the fullest extent." stated Per Vegard Nerseth, Head of ABB Robotics, Switzerland.
Booming robot market China
Between 2005 and 2012, sales of industrial robots to China have increased by about 25% on average per year and reached 23,000 units in 2012. This supply does not include sales of local Chinese robot manufacturers. At the joint event of the IFR and the Chinese Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA), the IFR-CRIA CEO Round Table at the CIROS trade show in July 2013 in Shanghai, it was reported that in 2011, local Chinese robot suppliers sold about 2,000 units and in 2012, 3,200 units.
The Taiwanese company Foxconn Electronics (enterprise Hon Hai Precision) is producing robots for their own use in their manufacturing plants in China. These robots are not counted in the statistics because the information on the installed number of the so called "Foxbot" robots installed in mainland China is rather vague. The numbers differ between total 10,000 and 30,000 units over the last years.
Taking into account the above mentioned information, the total number of robots installed in China in 2012 was between 28,000 and 35,000 units. Hence, China was already the largest robot market in 2012.
China will continue to have a substantial economic growth rate in the coming years. Strong investments in automation will continue in order to increase productivity and to establish more eco-friendly production processes. China is one of the most rapidly growing and largest consumer markets in the world with an emerging middle class escalating the demand for consumer goods, medical care and high quality lifestyle, all great reasons for pushing the manufacturing sector to automate. Besides modernization of the existing production sites, various types of industries are building new production sites in order to gain market share in this huge consumer market.
The potential for automation in the Chinese manufacturing industry is still huge. Compared to highly automated countries like Japan, Korea and Germany with robot densities in the manufacturing industry between 270 and 400 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, the robot density in China is comparably low with about 20 robots. To reach such a level of robot density, about one million new robots would have to be installed in the coming years in China.
In China the faltering economic growth in 2013 may affect robot investments somewhat. In 2013, the robot supply of foreign companies will increase by about 5% to 10% to about 25,000 units. And from 2014 to 2016, robot sales from the non local robot suppliers will again gain momentum and increase between by 15% on average per year reaching about 38,000 units in 2016.
Chinese robot manufacturers will increase their robot production in the near future, and robot suppliers from abroad will increase assembly of robots in China. Taking in account, that China is already one of the biggest markets but is still in the beginning phase of utilizing robotics, the Chinese market will offer huge potentials for installation for local and foreign robot suppliers in the coming years.