The International Federation of Robotics reports that global sales of industrial robots increased by a whopping 38 percent in 2011 over 2010. In this blog, we'll look at some of the results of the IRF's" World Robotics: Industrial Robots 2012" report. In a later blog, we'll examine the IRF's report on service robots, "World Robotics: Service Robots 2012."
Although the largest users of industrial robots are Japan and Korea, the biggest increases in 2011 occurred elsewhere. For example, shipments to Germany grew by 39 percent, to the US by 43 percent, to China by 51 percent, to Canada by 72 percent, and to Brazil by 125 percent. Robot sales increased in the Americas overall by 53 percent, compared to Europe at 43 percent, and to Asia at 27 percent.
Like a similar study we reported on from The Freedonia Group, the IRF's report shows that the two largest users of industrial robots are the automotive manufacturing sector, followed by electrical/electronics manufacturing. These two sectors are also the ones that the IRF expects to continue driving growth in industrial robot sales during 2012.
The International Federation of Robotics reports that global sales of industrial robots increased by 38 percent in 2011 over 2010. Although Asia is the largest regional user, the biggest increases happened in the Americas. (Source: International Federation of Robotics)
The biggest increase in a sector occurred in automotive, at 55 percent, but the second biggest was a 54 percent jump in the metals and machinery industry. Automotive can be expected from, among other things, the fact that processes as complex as the placement of composite fibers is being automated, as we reported previously. But the increase in the metals and machinery category is intriguing.
Between 2013 and 2015, the report says the electrical/electronics manufacturing sector will continue to increase its use of robots. That also makes sense, since this was one of the earliest manufacturing sectors to become automated. During this time period, although automotive manufacturing will continue to be the main sector that comes up with new robotics technology, it will experience what the IRF calls a cyclic decrease in robotics investment in 2013 and 2014. The previous decrease in this cycle happened between 2006 and 2009, during the global economic downturn.
China's increase in the use of industrial robotics is exceptional. The IRF report said China is on track to become the biggest user of robotics worldwide, and it's only a matter of when. This nation's installations of industrial robots quadrupled between 2006 and 2011, and grew every year except during 2009.
The IRF also predicts that, between 2013 and 2015, industrial robots will get lighter and more energy-efficient, and will be better able to collaborate with humans. Industrial robots will also become easier to integrate into existing manufacturing systems. It expects an annual growth rate of about 5 percent worldwide for industrial robots, which is close to Freedonia's predicted growth rate of 6 percent per year through 2016.
I agree, Al. It's definitely encouraging to see second- and third-tier automotive suppliers bouncing back. This is in part why automakers got bailed out a few years ago. The effects of financial failure of a big automaker are far-reaching.
Al, thanks for the clarification. Yes, I think it's directly related to an upturn in automotive manufacturing and to the upturn in overall manufacturing, not just automotive, since the downturn. And so does the IRF. I saw similar trends in machine vision a couple of years ago, in both the US and Europe: an upturn directly related to the upturn in manufacturing, at about the same time as this robotics/manufacturing upturn.
Ann, I was referring to variations year to year in automotive production. I tend to agree with Chuck that it would be interesting to see how the downturn in production affected usage of robots. I really don't have a good handle on yearly volumes to make the comparisons myself. Thanks.
I do wonder how much these numbers were affected by the automotive downturn a few years ago and the subsequent upturn now. I wonder how the automotive numbers would compare to say, 2005 or 2006, when auto sales in the U.S. were higher.
Yes, it is a big number! As we mentioned in the story, the IRF data says the global downturn in automotive investment in robotics was during 2006-2009. What we didn't say was the fact that overall industrial robot demand is up everywhere after slumping during the worldwide economic downturn. That's part of the reason for the big jump, according to the IRF. My question to you was requesting a definition of what you meant by "variations in auto production"? Did you mean variations over time in the US, or variations across countries throughout the world, or something else?
Ann, I am surprised by the magnitude of the increase in demand for industrial robots. A 38% increase from 2010 to 2011 for industrial robots, led by automotive and electrical/electronics assembly, is a big number.
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