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Car Industry Leads Adoption of Industrial Robots, More Jobs for Humans

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【Summary】Why is the car industry increasing its use of robots? The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) suggests it could be due to new developments in electric and autonomous vehicles.

Original Michael Cheng    Nov 29, 2016 6:35 AM PT

Many workers fear the imminent proliferation of robots in the manufacturing sector. In the car industry, demand for automotive parts and fleets of vehicles are on the rise; and for automakers deeply invested in their offerings, one of the most effective ways to maintain productivity levels includes incorporating robots on the production floor.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), confirmed this practice in the recently published "2016 World Robotics Report." According to the group, between 2010 and 2015, the US installed over 135,000 new industrial robots. The study singled out the car industry's transition to robotics-powered automation as the primary driver of this trend. However, it is important to highlight that during the same five-year period, over 230,000 new employees entered the sector.

"We've seen the industry's largest user, the automotive industry, accelerate its purchases of robots and at the same time create more jobs in the manufacturing process. We've seen strong growth in the use of robots in general industry, as robots further penetrate industries such as life sciences, warehousing and semiconductor and electronics manufacturing," said Jeff Burnstein, president of Robotic Industries Association.

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Robotic Density Data

Robotic density data provides an overview of countries and regions leading the adoption of smart machines. According to Mike Bacidore, editor-in-chief of Control Design, 66 units of robots for every 10,000 workers is the current global average. Countries in the European Union (EU) boast some of the highest ratios in the world at 65 percent. In Asia, China's robotic density rate is 36 units per 10,000 employees. This does not necessarily mean that the country is lacking robots. The region's dense population is the main reason for the low density ratio in the area.

In the report, the IFR foresees that over 40 percent of the world's market volume will be in China by 2019. By 2020, the country could boost robotic density to 150 units per 10,000 workers, which would be almost triple the global average. To achieve this ratio, roughly 650,000 industrial robots would have to be deployed in the region during the next five years. China is already on track to reaching this goal, as the country is predicted to "employ" 33.3 percent of the world's robots by 2018.

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Robotics and Car Manufacturing 

Why is the car industry increasing its use of robots? The IFR suggests it could be due to new developments in electric and autonomous vehicles. At the moment, businesses that specialize in electronics are in need of smart machines to boost the production of complex components, such as computer chips, circuit boards and semiconductors. Today's modern cars rely on such parts to power sensors, cameras and semi-autonomous safety features. As a result, the combination of car manufacturing and electronics has made industrial robots an integral part of the production process for automakers.

"Finally, the use of robots is rising in small- and medium-sized companies who see robotics as a key factor in improving productivity and product quality in order to stay globally competitive.  We expect these trends to continue well into the future," highlighted Burnstein.

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