IFR press release

More than 160,000 industrial robots sold in 2012

Robot supply to the United States continued to increase

Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara, IFR PresidentFrankfurt, 28 February 2013 - "Despite the weak global economic development in 2012 the demand for global robot sales almost reached the all-time-high level of 2011", said Shinsuke Sakakibara, IFR President, on Thursday in Frankfurt. "Investments in automation are ongoing!"

Based on the results of the IFR Quarterly Statistics, the IFR estimates that in 2012, again more than 160,000 industrial robots were sold, about the same number like in 2011. However, there were various outcomes in different regions. Robot sales to the Americas continued to increase due to necessary automation process in the North American industry. The supply to Asia stagnated. Robot sales to the biggest markets, Japan and Korea, stagnated or decreased while those to the emerging markets continued to rise. Robot supplies to Europe were lower than in 2011 due to the public debt crisis within the euro-zone.

Between 2002 and 2012 the annual increase of global robot sales was about 9% on average.  Following the global financial and economic crisis in 2009, the robot demand surged in 2010 and 2011. Investments of the electronics industry did not meet expectations in 2012. But the trend towards automation continued in all other industries. The main drivers of the growth toward automation were and will be energy-efficiency and light weight construction materials. The global robot suppliers are looking with confidence into the future:

Arturo Baroncelli, IFR Vice President, COMAU, Italy, explained why it was possible that sales of robots in 2012 confirmed the record reached in 2011 given the economic scenario in 2012: "Investments in robots always generate sound practical returns both at economic and technical levels. Robotized automation is a key strategic factor to enhance competitiveness both for the big, medium and small enterprises. The IFR initiative "Robots create Jobs" has documented, with real cases, how Robotics has been the basis of a paradigm shift that allowed dramatic successes of medium and small size companies."

"2012 was a record year for the North American robotics market, fueled by customer demand in a wide-variety of industries, especially those related to automotive manufacturing. Based on the record turnout at our Automate 2013 event in January we expect this will be another strong year as robotics gains further traction in small and medium sized companies." Jeff  Burnstein, President of Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the North American trade group.

"The demand on robotic equipment to achieve high productivity is still high. The emerging markets have taken up exactly this challenge." Rudolf Güdel, CEO, Güdel Group, Switzerland

"2012 represented another incredible year for ABB Robotics. Whilst economic uncertainty persisted in some parts of Europe, this was more than compensated by the continued strength of the investment cycle in Automotive and growing demand in regions such as Asia and the Americas. Adding the explosive growth in the Consumer Electronics industry to this mix helped push our business to further record levels in 2012. With many demographic and economic factors favouring increased adoption of flexible automation, I look forward to another excellent year for ABB Robotics and the industry in 2013." Per Vegard Nerseth, Head of ABB Robotics, Switzerland

"Despite difficult economic circumstances, we were able to improve still further in 2012 on our previous year's results. The automotive industry will continue to be the driving force behind new technologies in the future. In 2012, we succeeded not only in consolidating our market leadership in the automotive industry, but also in achieving new record values in General Industry due to our wide range of products. We can look towards the future with confidence: robotics will continue to grow steadily as it has in the last 50 years. More easy-to-use robots as well as robots collaborating with human workers will increase robot sales in small and medium-sized companies. Improved and easier integration of industrial robots will provide more applications for industrial robots. In order to be able to meet the expected strong demand in the coming years, we are currently expanding our capacities for robots in Germany and building a new robot assembly plant in growth market China." Manfred Gundel, CEO KUKA Roboter GmbH

"Despite the economic and financial uncertainty in Europe FANUC continues to achieve growth. Introduction of innovative robot products and the unique level of production capacity has seen demand for yellow robots continue to be high and we expect further growth in all areas for FANUC. With the succesful merging of the three strong divisions of FANUC of Robot, CNC and Robomachine in Europe to one integrated automation supplier we are now in a unique position to offer factory automation tools to help strengthen the competitiveness of our European customers." Olaf C. Gehrels, President FANUC Europe

"The year 2012 is also positive year for Kawasaki by increasing sales number continuously by following 2010 and 2011, in backing constant and strong demand in Asian region, even though we find a slight weakness of demand in Europe and a kind of fluctuations of market in semiconductors segment.  We are quite sure that robot automation solution would continue to constantly expand in various fields and applications in most of all regions." Yasuhiko Hashimoto, Associate Director, General Manager of Robot Division, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., Japan

"For 2013 we are confident of being able to build on our successes during the last year. In 2012, we successfully entered the U.S. market and also significantly increased our sales figures throughout Europe. Our special highlight 2012: At Automatica we won the IERA-Award for innovative robot technology. This year we are planning to release an update of our user-friendly software in order to make the operation of our lightweight robots even easier and more intuitive." Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO, Universal Robots, Denmark


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