The motor vehicle industry embraced robots early, so statisticians always focus on automotive when compiling robot data. Most robots do welding, especially welding motor vehicles. According to the most recent United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (Geneva, Switzerland) figures, which
go through 1995, the number of robots making cars per 10,000 workers that year were: Japan, 800; Italy, 400; US, 300, Sweden, 250; Germany, 230; and France and the UK, just under 200. Converted to sales dollars for 1995, the Japanese spent $2.5 billion, US customers spent $900 million, and Germany, Italy, France, and the UK together spent $1 billion.
In the ’80s, the boom years of the robot industry, many small companies held sway. In 1990, a peak year, almost 81,000 industrial robot units were sold. In 1993, sales plummeted to 56,000 units, and mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies cut the cast of characters to the
point where three robot builders, who had 7% of the world market in 1990, had a hefty 33% in 1995. By then, the slump was over, sales were almost back to 1990 levels, at 75,000 units, and the UN estimates the global market that year at $5.7 billion.
Who has the most robots? Not only does Japan have 60% of the world robot stock, which the UN estimates at 650,000 units, but it has more advanced robots than other countries, and its stock will continue to grow to 77,000 units by 1999.
What’s the forecast? Booming, according to UN analysts. Sales up 15% per year from 1997 through 1999, with a million units opera
tional worldwide by 1999. About half will be in Japan, 100,000 in the US, 76,000 in Germany, 33,000 in Italy, 17,000 in France, and 11,000 in the UK. Employee numbers will not grow at the same rate, and the density of robots measured as robots/1000 workers will continue to surge. For more information on World Industrial Robots-Statistics 1983-1994 and Forecasts to 1998, contact UN/ECE, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, fax +41-22-917.00.36.
Copyright Society of Manufacturing Engineers Feb 1997
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