The Robots are Coming

The growing adoption of robots is a response to faster business cycles and the requirement to produce with greater flexibility tailored to customer demand.

Grand Robotics Show
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    Automation Expo - Grand Robotics Show

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    Robots and services

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Robots are everywhere – on earth, underwater and in space – exploring the unknown and performing tasks beyond human endurance. According to a recent report, Global Industrial Robotics Market 2017 – Geographical Distribution and Key Players Analysis Forecast to 2022 by Research and Markets, the demand for industrial robotics is anticipated to grow exponentially during the forecasting period driven by advantages such as cost reduction, improved quality, increased production, and improved workplace health and safety. The adoption of automation to ensure quality production and meet market demand, and the growing demand from small- and medium-scale enterprises in developing countries is fuelling the growth of industrial robotics market globally.

On the basis of segment, the automotive industry accounted for highest share of the industrial robotics market. The market for industrial robotics in the electrical and electronics industry is expected to grow at double digit CAGR between 2017 and 2022 owing to the introduction of new electronic products into the market, the miniaturisation of electrical and electronics equipment, and complexity in manufacturing processes. The metal industry is the third largest market for industrial robotics.

Incidentally, it was the automotive industry that pioneered the use of industrial robots when General Motors (GM) used the early Unimate robot – the world’s first industrial robot – in 1961 at its die-casting plant in Trenton, USA. While the failure to see beyond hydraulics when the future was clearly electric caused the doom of Unimate, the robot became indispensable to the industrial world in general and automotive in particular. Now once again, GM is leading the trends in robotics when the company recently adopted the Zero Downtime (ZDT) concept, a cloud-based solution developed by Cisco in collaboration with FANUC and Rockwell Automation and deployed with hundreds of robots at GM factories to prevent downtime. The ZDT solution alerts workers well before a problem occurs, so they can schedule maintenance in a planned outage window. For example, all of FANUC America’s new paint robots are ZDT-ready, which means they can monitor a variety of functions including paint canisters, spray applicators, drive health and paint process regulators. In addition, ZDT provides maintenance reminders to notify customers to inspect or replace worn items.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry association that connects the world of robotics around the globe with members coming from the robotics industry, national or international industry associations and research & development institutes, today the strongest growth in the robotics industry is in Asia – led by China as the world’s number one marketplace. In 2017 robot installations are estimated to increase by 21 per cent in the Asia-Australia region. Robot supplies in the Americas will surge by 16 per cent and in Europe by 8 per cent.

Among important drivers of this development, the foremost is robot adoption is a response to faster business cycles and the requirement to produce with greater flexibility tailored to customer demand in all manufacturing sectors. A new generation of industrial robots will pave the way for ever more flexible automation. “Robots offer high levels of precision and their connectivity will play a key role in new digital manufacturing environments,” says Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Increasing availability enables more and more manufacturers from companies of all sizes to automate.”

In terms of units, it is estimated that by 2020 the worldwide stock of operational industrial robots will increase from about 1,828,000 units at the end of 2016 to 3,053,000 units. This represents an average annual growth rate of 14 per cent between 2018 and 2020. In Australasia the operational stock of robots is estimated to increase by 16 per cent in 2017, by 9 per cent in the Americas and by 7 per cent in Europe. Since 2016, the largest number of industrial robots in operation has been in China. In 2020, this will amount to about 950,300 units, considerably more than in Europe (611,700 units). The Japanese robot stock will slightly increase in the period between 2018 and 2020. About 1.9 million robots will be in operation across Asia in 2020. This is almost equal to the global stock of robots in 2016.

Taking note of these developments, the 2018 edition of Automation Expo, India’s premiere event for the segment, has planned a Grand Robotics Show in a separate hall as a great business opportunity to all the players in the robotics market. While the traditional industrial robots have been successfully deployed in various manufacturing and process industry and have often taken the hazardous and difficult task beyond the human capability, the new range of collaborative robots or cobots as these are called, are now working along with their human colleagues on various assembly lines as well as in service industries ranging from hospitals to hospitality sector.

According to IFR statistics, Indian industries purchased 2,600 industrial robots from foreign suppliers in 2016. But this is set to double in less than three years. With the growing market for collaborative and service robots, the country is likely to witness a major boom in its robot population, and not all are from global manufacturers. From the TAL Brabo cobot from Tata used for assembly of components to the GreyOrange Butler bot used in warehouses, Indian companies are rapidly riding the automation bandwagon. Apart from GreyOrange and TAL, companies like PARI, Systemantics, Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz, Gridbots, Sastra Robotics, DiFACTO Robotics and ASIMOV Robotics have various products in the market and have created a niche. PARI is already in the big league and most leading global industrial robot companies like ABB, Kuka, Fanuc Robotics, Yaskawa, among others are already present in the market for years now. In collaborative robots, Universal Robots have found a customer in Bajaj Auto way back in 2010, and the company has already established in India enjoying the first mover’s advantage.

The Grand Robotics Show during Automation Expo 2018 aims at bringing many of these robots and cobots for live demonstration.

(Automation Expo 2018 is scheduled from August 29-September 31, 2018 at Bombay Convention & Exhibition Complex, Mumbai)



Pix 1: Fanuc Paint Robot P-250iB/15 is described as the industry's best solution for large and mid-size painting jobs. Image Credit: FANUC America

Pix 2: ABB’s YuMi robots on a new production line at its electrification products plant in Ede, the Netherlands. Image Credit: ABB

Pix 3: The Kuka KMR iiwa – KMR stands for “KUKA Mobile Robotics”, iiwa for “intelligent industrial work assistant”. The KMR iiwa unites the sensitive properties of the robot with the benefits of autonomous navigation. This makes the KMR iiwa ideal for Industrie 4.0 solutions. Image Credit: KUKA Aktiengesellschaft

Pix 4: Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

Pix 5: The TAL Brabo range