As the world economy continues to trickle forward and record nominal growth the industrial robotics-manufacturing sector is growing at record levels with some robot manufactures reporting year on year growth from 18% to 25%.
ABB the $39 billion turnover power and automation technology company reported in their annual report for the year ended 2012: “Strong order performance in robotics.” Further adding: “Increase in large orders for robotics.” During each of the 3 quarterly reports so far in 2013 ABB have indicated: ‘robotics orders are up.’ And “Revenues reflect execution of strong order backlog, especially in robotics.”
The discrete automation and motion division, which includes robotics, had approximately 29,300 employees and generated $9.4 billion of revenues in 2012 – it is unclear how much robotics contributed to sales but it is clearly reported that robotics is the sector that is growing most.
The strong growth in the Discrete Automation and Motion division reflected continued demand for energy-efficient automation solutions leading to an increase of 63 percent. While all businesses contributed to the increase in orders in that division, Robotics (and power electronics) posted the highest growth rates.
Revenues rose in the Discrete Automation and Motion division, as the Robotics business continued to grow at a double-digit rate in 2012. The Robotics business also “grew at a double-digit pace in 2011.”
ABB also reported the highest increase in EBITDA was due to “the Robotics business.”
In 2012, orders (across the group) were flat due to slower industrial growth globally in a more challenging macroeconomic environment. Lower demand from the renewable energy sector was offset by increased volumes from large orders in other sectors.
The highest growth was achieved in the Robotics business due to several larger automotive orders.
Later adding: “Robotics orders increased due to improving demand in automotive and general industry sectors.” Further emphasizing business growth came from the robotics division: “The highest increase (in orders) came from the Robotics business.”
During the second quarter of 2013 the Precision Machinery division of Kawasaki Heavy Industries reported:
Consolidated orders received increased ¥6.1 billion ($58.6 million) year on year to ¥61.7 billion ($592 million), largely by virtue of growth in robot orders from the auto industry and orders for cleaning robots for semiconductor production lines.
In the first quarter of 2013 the same division of indicated additional growth:
Consolidated orders received grew ¥1.2 billion ($11.5 million) year on year to ¥29.8 billion ($286 million). The increase was largely a net result of growth in robot orders from overseas automobile manufacturers.
German headquartered Kuka Robotics, who it is thought have 7% of the industrial robotic market, showed remarkable growth between 2011 and 2012 for their industrial robots:
Their robots (excluding robot services) order book increased by 22.7% from Euro 654.4 million ($894) in 2011 to Euro 803.1 million ($1.1 billion) in 2012. And actual sales revenue increased by 20.5% from Euro 616.3 million ($842.6) in 2011 to Euro 742.6 million ($1.015 billion) in the financial year 2012.
Combining the robot manufacturing with robotic services is even more impressive. Kuka reports combined revenues for their robotics sales and service orders as increasing by 22% to Euro 1.89 billion (2.58 billion) and sales revenues increasing by 21% to Euro 1.74 billion ($2.38 billion).
Yaskawa the Japanese conglomerate recently reported robot sales of 58.6 billion yen ($506.2 million) for the first six months of 2013 up 7.9% against the previous year.
For the financial year ended 2012 Yaskawa had reported a 9.1% increase in sales revenue for its robots up to 110.2 billion Yen ($1.05 billion). Effectively recording more than 18% increase in eighteen months.
Another Japanese manufacturer Fanuc indicated growth for robot orders for the six months ended September 2013: “Looking at the performance by business group, the FA Group posted consolidated sales totaling ¥109,645 million, up 2.0%, the Robot Group posted consolidated sales totaling ¥73,619 million, up 25.0%. Bloomberg provides a comprehensive directory of approximately 110 industrial robot companies many of whom are reporting significant increases in revenue as manufacturers seek to automate much of the supply chain.
According to an International Federation of Robotics (IFR) study of World Robotics conducted in 2012, there were at least 1.15 million operational industrial robots by the end of 2011. This number is expected to increase by over 36% to 1.58 million by the end of 2015. Other reports indicate the market is currently worth $17 billion per year, and is expected to cross $37 billion by 2018, excluding services.
The figures reported by the robot manufacturers in their financial releases would appear to support this growth.
Whilst some jobs will be displaced due to the increased rollout of robots in the manufacturing sector, many will also be created as robot manufactures recruit to meet their growing demand and jobs that were previously sent offshore are brought back to developed countries, such as Apple manufacturing its Mac Pro in America.
The future looks bright for robotic manufacturers and those skilled in developing and working alongside the machines.