IFR press release

Robot sales in 2011 exceeded all expectations

Sales increased by 30 percent to about 150,000 units

Frankfurt, 16 February 2012 - "The success of the global robotics industry continued in 2011," said Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara, IFR President, on Thursday in Frankfurt. "Investments in robot automation again surged in all regions!"

Based on the results of the IFR Quarterly Statistics the IFR estimates that in 2011, sales of industrial robots will reach the new peak level of about 150,000 units. This would be an increase of about 30% compared to 2010. Already in 2010, sales greatly recovered from the dramatic downturn in 2009. In 2010, particularly, the automotive industry was the main driver of the strong growth. But for 2011, robot suppliers reported a considerable increase of demand also from the general industry, i.e. all other industries without automotive.

Dr. Sakakibara commented: "Thanks to the demand of emerging countries including China, the sales of factory automation apparatus are increasing. However, the growth of sales of machine tools seems to be slowing down under the influence of Europe's currency crisis and/or a Chinese tight-money policy. But, this does not apply to robots."

The use of robots guarantees dramatic improvements in quality

The IFR Vice President, Arturo Baroncelli, COMAU, Italy, added: "We were sure about a good year in 2011 but the results have been far better than the expectations. In a still unclear worldwide economic scenario one thing is certain: the use of robots always guarantees fast return of investments and dramatic improvements in terms of quality. And this is true both in car and general industry, both in emerging countries and nations having a long industrial tradition."

The robotics industry is looking forward to AUTOMATICA 2012 in May in Munich, Germany, which will present automation solutions and innovations in all application areas. It is set to give the robotics and automation industry an additional boost.


Also other robot suppliers confirmed this successful development.

Per Vegard Nerseth, Head of ABB RoboticsPer Vegard Nerseth, Head of ABB Robotics, Switzerland: 

"The recovery in the global industrial robot market that began in 2010 continued strongly through 2011 and resulted in record-breaking numbers. Growth in the automotive sector continued unabated and was strongly supported by an increased uptake in growth segments such as electronics, solar and food and beverage. We fully expect this growth to continue through 2012 with the increased demand throughout the Asia region continuing to be an important factor. Consequently, we also expect the strong trend towards a significant shift in manufacturing footprint to Asia to be maintained. I firmly believe that the value proposition of robotic solutions for manufacturers of all sizes has never been better and look forward to seeing this reflected in the continued growth of the industry."


Dr. Michael Wenzel, Managing Director, Reis Group HoldingDr. Michael Wenzel, Managing Director, Reis Group Holding, Germany:

"These figures clearly show the ongoing demand for industrial automation and robotics as a key component therein. We expect this trend to continue, maybe with a reduced growth rate, which will be a result of the global economic growth rates. However, the positive development in all application fields, in automotive and general industry and in all regions shows that the robotics industry has a broad market base and a high potential for further growth."


Manfred Gundel, IFR Board Member and CEO KUKA RoboterManfred Gundel, IFR Board Member and CEO KUKA Roboter Germany:

"The year 2011 was one of the most successful years in the history of the KUKA Robot Group. We increased the turnover in the robotics division again by 40%. With this regard, China was the most rapidly growing robot market. In 2011, we saw a considerable increased demand among all manufacturing industries after 2010 when the automotive industry was the main driver of the growth. Therefore, we decided to increase our production capacities. The potential for robot use is enormous. I am sure, that the global mega trends like sustainability, increasing industrialization and the demographic shift will boost the robotics industry."


Olaf C. Gehrels, President FANUC Luxembourg CorporationOlaf C. Gehrels, President FANUC Luxembourg Corporation:

"FANUC's Robot division in Europe has experienced a tremendous growth in 2011, achieving record booking levels. Despite the sluggish European economies, demand for yellow robots continuous to be high in the automotive industry as well as in general industry, making FANUC the preferred supplier in most European markets. We forecast a further substantial growth for 2012 and beyond. To support our world-wide expansion, FANUC Corp. Japan increased its robot production platform in 2011 to a staggering level of 60.000 units per year. "


Manfred Stern, President & COO Yaskawa EuropeManfred Stern, President & COO Yaskawa Europe, Germany:

"2011 was a record year for Yaskawa robots in terms of growth for both sales and bookings. This global trend was also seen in Europe, where our sales have grown in the range of some 40%. The demand was mainly driven by the automotive sector, including Tier 1 customers. The demand for 2012 is still high despite of the softening of the general economic environment. A significant growth is expected from applications like 'Packaging, Picking and Placing', 'Assembly', 'Material Handling' and 'Medical / Life Science', based on our Dual Arm Robots and the recently launched Delta Robot."


Dr. Hans Schumacher, President & CEO, Dürr SystemsDr. Hans Schumacher, President & CEO, Dürr Systems, Germany:

"2011 was the best year of the company history - in all business sectors. In the area of application technology, we sold for example 1,800 painting and sealing robots; in the last years before, the number was on average 500-700. In addition, we could report the sale of the 6,000th painting robot."


Jeff Burnstein, President, Robotic Industries AssociationJeff Burnstein, President, Robotic Industries Association, USA:

"The growing interest in automation combined with the strengthening of North American manufacturing industries, particularly automotive, contributed to a great year for the robotics industry."




John Dulchinos, President & CEO, Adept TechnologyJohn Dulchinos, President & CEO, Adept Technology, USA:

"I think another factor we saw in 2011 was the decision by many US manufacturing companies to keep manufacturing at home by automating, and in some cases, bringing back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas."




Mike Bomya, President, Nachi Robotic Systems Inc. Mike Bomya, President, Nachi Robotic Systems Inc., USA

"For the world-wide group companies of Nachi-Fujikoshi's robot division, 2011 continued the strong recovery that commenced in 2010.  Shipped units world-wide increased nearly 80% and in the North American region the growth was over 70%.  The Automotive sector was the most important driver for the improved turnover, but emerging manufacturing economies also made significant contribution.  The general industry segment is experiencing a good rebound and a growing acceptance of robotic solutions as a key to cost competitive manufacturing.  Our expectations for 2012 are quite optimistic - for the North American market, new investments in Mexico will figure prominently in the growth."


Do you still have questions? Gudrun Litzenberger, IFR Statistical Department, Telephone +49 69 66 03-1502 is ready to answer.