Robotics or automation industry is an emerging new trend for the future profitability of the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing labor cost is a key competitive factor in the past, prompting foreign companies to move to low-wage countries, thus creating a "world factory" in China. But recently due to rising wages and labor awareness, advanced economies are forced to rethink about their next step of development.
Economies such as the United States, EU, Japan, Korea, and China have launched their national development plans in the robotics or automation industry. Following this trend, cheap labor cost is no longer the only competitive advantage. In turn, reducing costs while enhancing quality and precision will be the crucial factors to succeed in an era of re-industrialization and global competition.
In 2013, the global sales volume of industrial robots was 178,132 units. The figure represented a record high year-on-year growth of 12 %. China was the largest market for industrial robots, accounting for 20.5% of global sales. In terms of exports, the biggest exporter of industrial robots was Japan who registered a total export value of US$1.245 billion. The largest importer was China who imported a total of US$700 million worth of industrial robots.
The automotive industry has traditionally been the largest driver of the robotics industry, followed by the electronic industry and the metal machinery industry. However, future growths are predicted to come from non-automotive fields, such as rubber and plastics, food and beverage, healthcare, and beauty and cosmetics.
In recent years, there has been a surge in the worldwide demand for automated production. While the robotics industry of Taiwan is constantly advancing and becoming more sophisticated, the four –industry giants, FANUC, Yaskawa, KUKA, and ABB, remain the leaders in global robotics. Their positions remain challenging goals for Taiwan’s companies to surpass.
Research has indicated that service-oriented robotics have a promising future in the market. While the competition in the robotics industry is far from over, there is a good chance for Taiwan to secure a firm position in the global market. In 2013, the global sales of professional service robots grew 4% on-year to reach 21,000 units. Moreover, over 4 million units of personal and home service robots were sold. The particular segment grew 28% year-on-year.
Taiwan imported a great amount of robots between the years of 2005 and 2008. However, in recent years, local manufacturers have improved their technological capabilities and become less dependent on imports. Although there remains much room for growth in terms of their exports, this year's Automation & Robotics Exhibition in Taiwan marked a milestone for the local industry.
Last year, the total output value of Taiwan’s intelligent automation-related industries reached US$28.76 billion. For 2014, the figure is expected to reach US$31.96 billion. In the robotics segment, the sector’s output value reached US$1.68 billion last year and is expected to amount to US$1.76 billion for 2014. In the years ahead, Taiwan's industrial robot manufacturers can focus on developing their exports and aim for high growth markets such as China, India, Brazil, Thailand and other emerging economies.
Chen-ying Li (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Source: International Trade (405)
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