Issue: May 2006


Industrial Robots: 25% plus worldwide in 2005



by Gudrun Litzenberger

In a preliminary interpretation for the World Robotics 2006 Study, the IFR Statistical Department published the first world data for 2005 on newly installed industrial robots. With some 121,000 new installation units, the best-ever result of 2004 was topped by another 25 percent in 2005.

Yet, the development was quite dissimilar in the three large industrial regions of Europe, America and Asia. With robotics investment booming in Asia and America, orders in Europe took a far more moderate course.

2005 saw a decline of 9 percent (which is 26,800 unit) for the installation of industrial robots in Europe compared to 2004. This is largely attributable to the lagging investments of the automotive industry and its suppliers in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Sweden. In contrast, sales augmented in eastern European countries and Great Britain. These figures, however, are still somehow low compared to the major European locations. Only in France, a slight increase in installations for the automotive industry was achieved. The car makers’ purchases for industrial robots fell by 29 percent in Europe.

Stefan Müller, EUnited Robotics, says: "Outside the automotive industries the demand for industrial robots is steadily increasing: Plastics and rubber, food and packaging, household appliances, wood and furniture, glass and ceramic products. The figures do not yet outweigh the demand of the automotive industry und were therefore unable to compensate for the sharp fall. These areas accounted for a combined growth rate of 17 percent in 2005."

In America, robotics investments sky-rocketed by 34 percent with 20,500 units compared to the year 2004. Especially Asian car makers have made significant investments to enlarge and improve their US and Canadian production sites. But also US companies and the European automotive industry paid out to stand their ground against their competitors in North America. Including the deliveries to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, the automotive industry used 50% more industrial robots in 2005 in America than in 2004. Donald Vincent, Robotics Industries Association (RIA): "Also in America, we experience an intensified demand from other sectors, e.g. food, household appliances and medical technology."

Gudrun Litzenberger, IFR Statistical Department: "In Asia, robotics deliveries the increase of 41% to 72,600 units was above all forecasts. Here, too, orders are received predominantly from the car makers and their suppliers. Seeing that increase in Japan mostly stems from replacement and modernization, the Asian growth markets, e.g. China, Thailand and India, made investments in capacity expansion." In Japan apart from the automotive sector, it was the electronical components industry, communication equipment and computer industry that reinforced again like in 2004 its robotics share. Especially the semiconductor and the flat panel display industry invested largely in robots. In South Korea, much more robots were used for assembly, palletizing, packaging and commissioning goods than in the preceding year.

The IFR Statistical Department estimates that by the end of 2005, about 914,000 industrial robots will do their jobs worldwide. More than 50% are based in Asia, one third in Europe and 16 percent in America. Australia and Africa account for nearly one percent.

In the current year, robotic installations are likely to remain on the level of 2005 or even decline slightly in Europe. The automotive industry consolidates its European production capacities and the production for new models will not commence before 2007. In contrast, robotic applications will steadily continue to gain in importance in the new growth sectors, also with respect to the required volumes.

The American Robotics Association RIA also expects stagnating or declining figures for 2006, as the automotive industry has brought most of last year’s major investments in industrial robots to an end. Yet, increased use of industrial robots by the general industry
sectors – outside the automotive sphere - is expected.

Robotic installations in Asia are expected to remain on the level of the previous year or may even rise a little. In Japan, replacement investments will probably not come in on the same figures as during the two preceding years. Robotics deliveries to China and India are steadily increasing.


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