The South Korean government has decided to invest significant resources into expanding the country’s production of industrial robotics and automation systems so that it’s worth $6.15 billion by 2022.
This is according to BusinessKorea.com, which says the plan is intended to increase the number of small and mid-size robot makers with sales of more than $46 million to 25.
The report says government-backed organisations, academic and research institutions, as well as private enterprise will take part in the new initiative.
In particular, the group will “aggressively promote” collaborative robots because such machines are increasingly being used in a wide variety of industrial businesses.
As well as finding a place in industrial operations which have always used robots, cobots are proving popular with smaller manufacturers who may never have used robots before.
South Korea’s “Intelligent Robot Industry Development Strategy” is being led by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
South Korea is estimated to be utilising more robots per thousand employees in industry than any other country – something called “robot density”.
Currently, the South Korean industrial robot market is valued at around $4 billion, and the government wants to increase that figure to more than $6 billion.
Similar initiatives in support of the robotics industry have been introduced in many countries, including China, the US, and Japan.
China’s “Made in China” plan has already resulted in more than 100,000 robots being manufactured in the country last year.
This is from starting point of having little or no robotics and automation systems manufacturing base previously.
China’s quick pace is leading to big robot-making nations such as South Korea and Japan to increase their investment and activity in an effort to stay ahead.
Further afield geographically, in the US, the government has invested $225 million into its robotics activity, mainly into collaborative robots, according to Business Korea.
Moreover, the current administration of President Donald Trump is a big supporter of the manufacturing sector, where most robots are used.
The general belief is that robotics and automation technology will strengthen the US manufacturing base by making it more competitive.
According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, collaborative robots are helping to prevent manufacturing turning to foreign countries which have lower labour costs.
In fact, some companies are “reshoring”, or bringing manufacturing operations back to the US.
The BCG report says: “The share of executives saying that their companies are actively reshoring production increased by 9 per cent since 2014 and by about 250 per cent since 2012.
“This suggests that companies that were considering reshoring in the past three years are now taking action.”
Japan, meanwhile, is said by Business Korea to be investing about $270 million into its “New Robot Strategy”, and Prime Minister is said to be fanatical about robots, even floating the idea of a “Robot Olympics” and promoting the “Robot Revolution” at a recent G7 Summit.
Along with expanding the productivity and revenues of the robotics and automation industry, the South Korean government is looking to increase employment in the sector from the current 29,000 to 36,000.
The largest South Korean industrial robotics company is probably Hyundai Heavy Industries, a massive conglomerate which builds ships among other massive things.
Hyundai last year made its robotics division a standalone business unit so it can more freely compete with Japanese giants such as Fanuc, Yaskawa Motoman, and Kawasaki.
Hyundai says it aiming for a place among the top five industrial robot makers in the world. At the moment, the world’s largest industrial robot maker is Fanuc, with more than 400,000 robots installed worldwide.
But the market is seeing many new entrants, especially in the collaborative robots segment. Here is a list of 30 industrial robot companies you might want to know about.
Kuka, which was acquired by Chinese company Midea last year, and ABB are also among the big companies competing for a larger share of the growing industrial robotics and automation market within Asia and around the world.