Industrial robots and automation: The future has long since started

Fanuc: Spearheading a mega-trend
Fujiyama is one of the major sights in Japan. A symbol of this Asian country, the 3,776 metre high mountain captivates tourists from all over the world. What few of them may know is that not far from the peak – affectionately known by the locals as “Mount Fuji” – lies the home of Fanuc, a true pioneer in the field of industrial automation. Founded in 1956, the company has built up an entire town of its own in the shadow of the impressive volcanic cone. Factories, research and development centres, administrative buildings, homes, leisure facilities and even a dedicated hospital range over an area covering some 1.5 million square metres. Fanuc describes itself as a world-leading manufacturer of factory automation, industrial robots, CNC systems, wire-cut EDM and injection-moulding machines and vertical machining centres. As such, the group is positioned to spearhead Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0: Conventional production meets modern IT
The term Industry 4.0 is a byword for the fourth industrial revolution, following the steam engine, the mass production line and the computer. It sees conventional production coming together with the possibilities afforded by modern information and communications technology. Digital transformation is making interactive networking of people, machines and industrial processes possible. This enables customised products to be manufactured to the highest quality at mass product prices, or the individual steps in the manufacturing chain to be coordinated precisely, flexibly and regardless of location. Industry 4.0 is closely linked with the Internet of Things (IoT), where the focus is on bringing the physical world together with the world of the internet. The possibilities range from industry to applications in the heart of the home. Find here investment solutions on the topic “Industrial robots and automation: The future has long since started”.

Robotics and automation: Applications of critical importance
Companies such as Fanuc are playing a key role in implementing Industry 4.0 and IoT. Ultimately, the further expansion of these mega-trends is hard to imagine without industrial robots and automation solutions. The segment is growing correspondingly strongly. According to figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), at the end of 2016 over 1.8 million industrial robots were in use worldwide. Taking 2010 as the baseline, their numbers have increased by 10% on average per year. The sectoral association estimates sales for 2016 at a record volume of USD 13.1 bn. If expenditures on software, peripheral devices and systems technology are added in, the global robots market would account for USD 40 bn in 2015, according to the IFR. Its most important customers are the automotive industry. In 2016, more than one in every three new robots was installed in this sector of industry. Even so, the rate of growth has slowed in 2015 and 2016 compared to the years before that. Currently, it is business in the electronics industry that has been picking up. In 2016, 91,300 robots were sold for applications such as production of computers, radios, TVs and medical equipment – 41% more than the year before.

Prospects: Industrial robots remain in demand
The IFR takes a positive view of prospects going forward. In its publication “Executive Summary World Robotics 2017 Industrial Robots”, the Association writes: “Industry 4.0, connecting the real factory with the virtual world, will play an increasingly important role in global manufacturing.” As prevailing trends for the coming years, the experts pick out collaborative robots, IoT and machine learning or artificial intelligence. Additionally, robots could take over tasks where it is unreasonable to ask people to tackle them, or where that could only be done at some personal risk. All in all, the IFR is assuming that the number of industrial robots supplied is set to grow on average by 15% a year through to 2020 (see graphic). From a regional perspective, the Association describes China as a key growth driver. 

Industrial robots: the volumes supplied are steadily increasing

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Asia driving automation forward
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