According to Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara, president of the International Federation of Robotics, 2011 was the most successful year for industrial robots in 50 years. At the AUTOMATICA in Munich, Germany, Sakakibara referenced the fact that 2.3 million have been sold all over the world since the first robotic installation in 1961.
“In 2011, about 165,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide, by far the highest level ever recorded, 37% more than 2010,” said Arturo Baroncelli, VP of IFR. “The impetuous increase of demand in 2010 and 2011 following the worldwide financial and economic crisis exceeded all our expectations. We expect that in 2012, robot sales will further increase with a more reduced growth rate and again reach a new peak level,” he added. “The use of robots always guarantees fast return on investments and dramatic improvements in terms of quality. And this is true both in the car and the general industry, both in emerging countries and in nations having a long industrial tradition.”
Three of the countries most responsible for the increase were China, the U.S. and Germany, with growth rates of robot sales between 39% and 51%. All three countries reached new peak levels. The two biggest markets trended slightly lower—Japan was back on top with almost 28,000 industrial robots, 27% more than 2010. Robot sales to South Korea increased by 9% to 25,500 units.
China has been the most rapidly growing market over the last several years, with the exception of 2009. In 2011, almost 22,600 industrial robots were supplied to China, and by 2014, it will surpass Japan to top the robot market worldwide.
As in 2010, the automotive industry strongly increased robot investments. Continuing modernization and increase of capacities in emerging markets were the main reasons for this. The trend towards automation, especially in the metal and machinery industry, boosted robot sales there. The electrical/electronics industry—which almost tripled robot installations in 2010—increased robot orders again, but with a lower growth rate.
According to the IFR, increased productivity will be required to offset labor shortages and the higher costs associated with the demographic shifts that are being seen in many countries. It is also key to note that sustainability, eco-friendly production and energy-saving measures are becoming increasingly visible all over the world. New production processes have to be installed. Automation provides solutions for all these challenges and industrial robots are key components of that.
International Federation of Robotics