Germany, the largest market in the EU, offers profitable market opportunities for U.S. producers of innovative automation technology and peripheral equipment. The German automation sector is highly international with exports amounting to 80%, and imports at 67%. Germany produces 14% of the global automation technology. Due to Germany’s central location in Europe, major European distributors of automation are operating out of Germany to supply the neighboring European markets.
In 2006, the overall economy in Germany recovered from stagnation, and the German automation market showed good growth. German automation market sales increased by 8.8%. Exports soared to 12.4%, or EUR 24.3 billion, and imports reached EUR 12.3 billion, an increase of 15.4% over the previous year.
The European Robotics Market
After stagnating in 2005, the market improved in 2006. Despite decreasing demand for robots in the European automotive industry, the European robotics market grew by 11%. The good results were due to the upswing in the metal processing and chemical industries off setting the 14% order decline in the automotive industry. Major European suppliers of robots are: KUKA Roboter GmbH, ABB or ReisRobotics; in the servicing and electronics fields: Philips and Electrolux as well as Safran, EADS, Thales and Finmeccanica, which are mostly OEMs or system providers for robotics.
The use of industrial robots is increasing steadily particularly in the following sectors: Plastics and rubber, food and packaging, household appliances, wood and furniture, glass and ceramics. Insiders report that in Europe about 30% more robots were installed in the food industry than in both America and Asia in 2006. European manufacturers use more robot systems in industries other than in automotive orelectrical/electronics applications than any other region.
Germany is by far the largest market for multipurpose industrial robots in Europe followed by Italy with about half the size, France and Sweden, respectively. Germany also is the country with the highest robot density in Europe: 171 robots are used per 10,000 employees in the German manufacturing industry (2005). Insiders forecast that installations of industrial robots in Germany will reach a total of 13,000 unitsin 2009. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR, http://www.ifr.org/ ) based in Paris,France, best market prospects globally are in the following application areas: Underwater systems,defense, rescue and security applications, laboratory robots, professional cleaning robots, medical robots,and mobile robot platforms for multiple use.
The European robotics industry and the EU have recently agreed on a special “i2010 initiative,” to foster European robotics technology. In October 2007, the European Robotics Platform (EUROP) was launched: http://www.robotics-platform.eu.com. EUROP was launched to secure Europe’s leadingposition in robotics, and to encourage and support new companies and supply networks to meet new technological needs. Part of EUROP is an end-user forum encompassing representatives from industrial sectors that are major users of robotics technologies (aerospace, automotive, food, but also security applications). This forum is expected to state expectations, requirements, and validation principles. Working groups are set up, as needed, to focus on specific pre-defined tasks, either permanently or on anad-hoc temporary basis.
By Kirsten Hentschel