Market report: The rise of industrial robots

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in Uncategorized

Competitiveness and safety are driving forces behind the record-breaking ead robotic trends

By 2019, some 2.6 million robot units will be workin

g around the world. That’s another 1.4 million new industrial robots on today’s figures, according to the latest forecast from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). And the IFR study, released in September 2016, says that’s one million units more than 2015 – which was actually a record-breaking year.

So which industries are using industrial robots?

Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) are in the automotive, electrical/electronics and metal and machinery sectors. Last year, the electronics industry showed the strongest growth, up 18 per cent. It was followed closely by metals at 16 per cent and the automotive sector growing 10 per cent.

And where are they?

Europe accounts for most robots so far. Around two thirds (65 per cent) of countries with above-average industrial robot numbers per 10,000 employees are in the European Union. However, it’s in the Asia Pacific region that the IFR says we’ll see the fiercest growth: it says China is showing the strongest growth drivers, and tips the world’s most-populous nation to account for 40 per cent of global sales in 2019.

Peter Bradbury, Channel Manager – Robotics with ABB Australia (exhibiting at AUSPACK 2017, Stand 502) says this is because China is transitioning from being a low-cost labour country and is investing heavily in automation to retain its manufacturing market share.

“It’s doing this by reducing the direct labour content and improving the quality of its manufactured goods.”

Local picture

“As far as where Australia fits in to the world picture, we’re a relatively small market in global-robot terms due to our comparative size and, more importantly, the absence of the two main industries for robots: automotive and consumer electronics,” Bradbury says.

“However, in Australia we are fortunate to have highly competitive food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, all of which are continuing to invest heavily in automation.”

Indeed both ABB and Robotic Automation (Stand 266) have recent installations into food-related and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Moving deeper into that sector, Bradbury says until now, packaging applications have been the main focus of robotics within the food & beverage and pharmaceutical industries, but next year, ABB will launch a range of food-grade articulated robots able to handle raw food in processing applications. He says while this reflects what ABB is doing in the rest of the world, it should be noted that in Australia, the food & beverage sector is disproportionately bigger compared with most other countries that have more significant manufacturing industries.

Bradbury also notes that Australia’s strengthening food & beverage sector – while benefiting the local economy –  simultaneously faces challenges.

“These include higher demand from local and overseas markets, which puts pressure on the entire supply chain  – particularly in terms of increasing the need to monitor quality and to ensure we maintain the strong reputation of our locally produced goods. To that end, ABB is also heavily involved in power protection and maximising available plant uptime with uninterruptable power supply, or UPS, systems, micro grids and intelligent motor and drive systems. All of these are especially important for plants outside major metropolitan areas, where maintaining high levels of power quality and reliability often present major challenges for manufacturers.”

Bradbury, who sits on the APPMA Board, sees more good news for Australian industry, with many opportunities also arising from the “re-shoring” phenomenon.

“Re-shoring is where manufacturing and processing facilities are being relocated back to Australia in the form of highly automated plants. Such facilities offer local manufacturers the same low manufacturing costs as their overseas counterparts, but without having to contend with the long supply lines and potential lack of certainty inherent in being located in other areas within the Asia-Pacific region.”

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