Sales up for materials handling robots

Paul Boughton

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumer markets such as food and beverage and pharmaceuticals hold huge potential for robotics in materials handling. These traditionally conservative industries anticipate that robots will reduce labour costs and manage product line changes along with fluctuating volumes.

Frost and Sullivan finds that European 'robotics for materials handling' markets earned revenues of EUR591.5million ($762.3million) in 2004 and estimates that it will reach EUR0.99billion ($1.28billion) in 2012.

The booming packaging industry, specifically in respect to the consumer markets, offers immense potential for robotics. Changing product types and varying product volumes necessitate flexible automation. Manufacturers in consumer markets are opening up to the idea of investing in robots to reduce costs and maintain quality, thereby boosting sales of robotics in the packaging market.

Howeverwith the slump in demand from automotive OEMsincreasing number of robotics manufacturers will look to the food and beverage and life sciences sector for growth opportunitieswhich results in intense competition says Frost and Sullivan research analyst Kashyap Chandrasekar.

Most SMEs cannot afford huge investments in flexible automation, and the need for flexibility is greatest among SMEs that constantly have to cope with changing demands of end users. In the short run, the success of robot manufacturers depends on their efforts to offer reliable and inexpensive robots to SMEs.

Given the decreasing demand from automotive OEMs in 2003 and 2004, robot manufacturers have to stop depending on this sector for consistent revenues. Niche market participants should take a more generalist approach and look to developing markets for regaining profits.

The automotive sector has traditionally been the biggest user of flexible automation in manufacturingand hence most robot manufacturers have a presence in this sector says Mr Chandrasekar. Intense competition and price pressures from OEMs and the slump in demand are making a niche automotive approach highly unfavourable."

Niche participants have immense technical know-howsuccessful pricing strategies and experience in competing globally with the generalist participants in the automotive sector. Widening their end-user spectrum will be profitable in the near future and a necessity in the long run. Generalist participants should focus their efforts on taking robotic materials handling systems to the high potential SMEs market.

'European Robotics for Materials Handling Markets' (reference B532-10) is part of the Robotics and Materials Handling Subscription from Frost and Sullivanwhich also includes research in the following markets: North American Packaging Machinery MarketEuropean Industrial Vision SystemsEmerging Robotic Technologies andRobotic Automation: Industry Impact Research Service. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends. All research is evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

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