Robotics, in Italy, Grows at More than Twice the German Rate!

Figures regarding robotics in Italy and worldwide keep on growing at staggering rates. This is the synthesis which may be derived from the preview of data from World Robotics 2018, the annual report prepared by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and by reading the results processed by the Statistics Working Group of SIRI and UCIMU for our country. This trend reflects, among other things, the positive growth period which even SIRI, the Italian Association for Robotics and Automation, is going through, supported by a number of associated companies which is now above sixty. We talked about this with Domenico Appendino, President of SIRI, who provided a snapshot of this very positive moment.

by Fabrizio Garnero

The growth of robotics during the past few years is progressing at a rate which exceeds by far the most optimistic expectations. Considering the euphoric mood in the segment, could you tell us the actual new figures of robotics in the world?
IFR (International Federation of Robotics) recently provided a preview by publishing on its website some data from the World Robotics 2018 annual report (Figure 1), which will be officially presented in October during the annual press conference which will be held in Tokyo. IFR had to revise the growth rate twice and surprised analysts: after a first announcement with a forecast growth of robot sales in the world in 2017 of 29%, it needed to retouch this value bringing it to 31% with a figure of 387,000 units as opposed to 294,000 units in 2016, a new world record (Figure 2). The IFR forecast for 2017 was of an 18% growth, almost half of what was actually reached. This is a very important datum, which represents well the technical and industrial ebullience of this important segment of the market even after years of growth with a recorded average of 15%.
The greatest increase was again recorded in Asia with 262,000 units representing 68% of worldwide sales, with a 37% growth with respect to last year. Europe follows with 67,000 uits corresponding to 17% of global sales with a 20% growth with repsect to last year, then America, with 50,000 units (13% of the market and 22% growth with respect to the pevius year) leaving all other countries with 8,000 units corresponding to 2%, also characterized by an average growth rate of 20% (Figure 3).

Although growth is widespread, are the main countries who are really “playing the game” just a few?
Well! Five countries alone cover 72% of the market, led by China which on its own showed a record 58% growth with respect to last year when it had malready grown by 29% in 2015 and had already had a 56% peak in 2014. Its 138,000 units represent 36% of the global market and are far more than in the other four countries, namely, Japan with 46,000 units and a growth rate of “only” 18%, Korea with 40,000 units, a slight decrease this year with respect to last ear, the USA with 33,000 units and a 6% growth an finally Germany with 22,000 units and an 8% growth (Figure 4). In this respect, I would like to point out that Italy is still the second European country for robotics with 8,000 units, corresponding to 2% of the global market, bit shows a record growth of 19% in 2017, which this year is more than double with respect to Germany.

Regarding applications, are new trends advancing?
The subdivision of the market by applications did not change very much with the Automotive industry leading; this grew by 21% worldwide (125,000 units). The electric/electronic segment is the runner-up and the one with the highest growth rate (27% – 116,000 units), increasingly close to automotive, such that it could be envisaged that it could possibly overtake this segment. The third sector, not too close, is metal (44,000 units) but its growth rate is definitely larger, as it reached 54% (Figure 5). This datum, which surprised analysts and was reported emphatically by Italy’s main economic dailies, did not however astonish SIRI and those who read your magazines (PubliTec, as a media partner for SIRI, follows the Robotics world very closely and provides timely coverage of events) since the works of SIRI’s Statistics Working Group raised awareness as to the fact that Italy would have gone above 8,000 units in 2017. This had been revealed and presented at the beginning of 2018 and published by PubliTec both on Deformazione magazine in March and on Soluzioni di Assemblaggio e Meccatronica magazine in May/June.

Talking about Italy in greater detail, what is the framework detected recentlyby SIRI’s SWG?
In September 2018 SIRI’s Statistics Working Group (SWG) carried out its second annual meeting to monitor the market. Combined data showed a growth in the first half of 2018 which was much higher than that recorded in the same period of 2017, and it was evaluated at 31%. The number of robots estimated is just under 5,100 units where 4,200 units are the recorded sales of articulated robots and SCARA (89,6% articulated robots – 10,4% SCARA) (Figures 6 and 7). This figure represents the result of anthropomorphic and SCARA robots recorded (Figure 8) to which about 900 non-recorded robots should be added, and represents the estimate of the global market based upon the opinion of those present at the SWG meeting who evaluated the other types of non-recorded robots based on their sensations regarding the market. It is therefore a “sentiment”, the best evaluation which can be made by Italian operators on this market.

These numbers are definitely interesting and important, but they do not represent the robot park installed in our country; is that correct?
That is correct! It is necessary to remember that the numbers indicated by SIRI’s Statistics Working Group along with UCIMU – Sistemi per Produrre’s Study Centre are an estimate of the number of units ordered in Italy during the first half of 2018, and not of the installed machines. What has been stated above, reported in the previously mentioned articles by PubliTec, is important, not just for a correct information but also because the datum is influenced by the excellent work of Italian integrators, considered by all constructors as among the best, if not the best, in the world, who with their competence and knowledge are often the leading players on the market, developing cells of robotized plants which for the best part are meant to be sent abroad. Out of the robots sold in Italy, therefore, many are installed in other parts of the world.
This clarifies why the data of SIRI’s survey indicate the number of robots ordered in Italy but do not completely contribute to the new park installed in our country. With reference to recorded data, which represent the combination of anthropomorphous and SCARA robots, the number of robots sold directly by manufacturers is 906 units, with a 14.1% increase with respect to the first half of 2017, while the robots sold through third parties are 3,264, with a 32% increase with respect to the first half of 2017, which bears witness and confirms the important job of integrators in our country.

From an industry standpoint, is automotive the leader even in our country?
Automotive is an important sector, but if we consider markets in Italy carefully the leading role is taken up by “General Industry” which takes up the best part of robots (3,397 units, corresponding to 81,5% of the market, compared to Automotive (773 units, corresponding to 18.5% of the market). It is interesting to note that in this term both sectors grew significantly with respect to the first half of 2017, Automotive by 30% when the increase in 2017with respect to 2016 had been only 11.7%, and “General Industry” by 28% compared to the first half of 2017 when it had already increased by 23.3% in 2017 with respect to 2016. These data are therefore extremely positive and they continue to allow s to hope for the best as concerns this market, which is so important for our country.