Since the 1960s, industrial robots have been at the forefront of modern automotive manufacturing. Today, that use continues to grow. Here are the latest stats on robotics in the automotive industry.
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Click to View Larger Image -- Credit: Tom Ahlborn, Sr. Marketing Specialist at Bastian Robotics[/caption]
Industrial robots have been associated with the automotive industry ever since their inception over 50 years ago. Back in 1962, Unimation’s UNIMATE was installed in General Motors’ New Jersey plant, making it the very first industrial robot to ever be used by a major manufacturer. However, it wasn’t until about 20 years later when industrial robots truly became synonymous with the auto industry. During this time period, manufacturers began turning to robotics to automate more processes than ever, including welding, painting, assembly, die casting, and large part transfer. Fast forward to today, and the automotive industry continues to dominate global robot usage, and robotic installations are at an all-time high.
Over the past few years, the automotive industry has considerably increased investments in industrial robots worldwide. In 2013, nearly 70,000 new robots were installed, establishing a new peak level. With global automobile production hitting approximately 90 million units in 2014, the number of installations is only expected to rise in years to come.
The United States has been in the midst of a manufacturing renaissance as of late, and that is evident in recent statistics surrounding industrial robotics in America. Since 2010, American vehicle production has increased by an average of 15.86% annually, and manufacturers have taken note. When compared to 2010, the employment rate in the automotive industry increased by an additional 21% in 2013. With that increase in employment also came an increase in automation. The United States now ranks 3rd
globally in robot density in the automotive industry, with a density of 1,111 units. Robot density is defined as the number of industrial robots in operation per 10,000 employees in the automotive industry. Additionally, 56% of all industrial robot orders in North America were made by automotive manufacturers.
In addition to the United States, one can’t help but bring up China when discussing robotics in the automotive industry. China is the world’s largest car market, producing over 23 million vehicles in 2014. This immense automotive market is by far the largest consumer of robots in China, accounting for about 40% of China’s total robot supply. The International Federation of Robotics estimates that a race by automakers to build plants in China, along with wage inflation, will push the operational stock of industrial robots in China to more than double to 428,000 units by 2017.
Industry Trends and the Future
In the first quarter of 2015, automotive-related orders continued to drive the industrial robotics market. Robot orders to the automotive components industry increased 66%, while robots ordered by automotive OEMs grew by 6%. The most common applications for these robots included material handling (33%), spot welding (26%), and coating & dispensing (9%). While the number of industrial robots is rising rapidly in other industries
, it is still quite evident that the automotive industry remains the key driver for the growth of industrial robotics around the world.
While robots will continue to be utilized at a record pace, the future of the global automotive industry will not be without its challenges. With stricter regulations on emissions and safety, as well as changing consumer trends and rising demand, it is more imperative than ever for manufacturers to have an efficient and reliable manufacturing process. These fluid industry trends create opportunities for various new production lines as well as modernization of old equipment. The implementation of industrial robotics can help manufacturers realize reduce time-to-market, cut product costs, lower energy consumption, and more. As manufacturers look to remain competitive, expect robotics to continue playing a pivotal role in the evolution of the automotive industry.
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