There were an estimated 200,000 industrial robots produced worldwide in 2012. The majority of the manufacturing of these robots took place in Europe and Japan, where there is already a base of established industrial robot producers. Between 2011 and 2016, the production of industrial robots in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) is forecast to grow at a CAGR (compound average growth rate) of 9.6%, more than any other region in the world, with China set to contribute significantly to this growth. There are numerous influencing factors which may cause this CAGR to further increase by a large factor.
The decision to buy a robot from one vendor over another is dependent on many things such as cost, application, location and range of expertise. In certain circumstances, political alignment may also play a part. For example, Chinese end-users may be reluctant to do business with Japanese vendors due to the dispute between their respective governments over the Senkakus-Diaoyus islands - a significant amount of investment into manufacturing infrastructure relies on Chinese Government funding.
Chinese industrial production has increased at a CAGR of approximately 14.5% over the past decade, and the country's demand for automation has followed suit. In its recently announced 12th five-year plan, it was clear that the country will seek to source goods from domestic suppliers rather than rely heavily on foreign imports. Local manufacturers such as GSK and SIASUN are two examples of domestic suppliers. However, it may take some time for domestic producers to establish credibility (even with a low cost solution), especially since major robot manufacturers such as ABB, KUKA Roboter and Yaskawa have opened up manufacturing facilities in the region.
Arguably the biggest news concerning the industrial robot market in China has been the announcement of Foxconn's intention to deploy one million robots in its factories in the next 2-3 years, with intentions to sell onto the open market as well. This news has generally been met with scepticism. However, there is a definite need for the business to invest in automation, with growing concerns regarding the treatment and working conditions of its employees.