IFR Press Releases

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) announced the publication of its updated research study titled “Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on employment.” The study found that more than two million jobs will be created in the next eight years because of robotics in industry.

Frankfurt, 28 February 2013 - “Our study proves that robots create jobs,” said Gudrun Litzenberger, General Secretary of IFR. “It is a matter of fact that productivity and competiveness are indispensable for a manufacturing enterprise to be successful on the global market. Robotics and automation are the solution. Certain jobs may be reduced by robotics and automation but the study highlights that consequently many more jobs are created!”

Summary of the study by Bill Lydon, Editor Automation.com:

The authors of the study see robots creating jobs primarily due to the use of robots in new product development, current industry expansion, and downstream job development.
“A much larger source of employment, at least partly due to robotics, is the newly created downstream activity necessary to support manufacturing which can only be done by robots.” “Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment” by Metra Martech February 2013

Study Findings at a Glance

  • Direct employment due to robotics is 4 to 6 million jobs created in world manufacturing through 2011, represented by 3 to 5 jobs created per robot in use.
  • Indirect employment created as a result of robots increases this number to 8 - 10 million jobs.
  • It is projected that 1.9 to 3.5 million jobs will be created by robots in the next eight years.
  • When manufacturing jobs are saved, jobs throughout the community where the factories are located are also saved.

The study illustrates opportunities for manufacturers to participate in the rebalancing of worldwide manufacturing using robots to level the playing field resulting in increased higher paying jobs.

Generally, countries where manufacturers have embraced the use of robots have resulted in greater manufacturing output and lower unemployment.
The study notes driving forces for using robotics:

  • Increasing Manufacturing Precision;
  • Manufacturing Production Consistency;
  • Reduce Work Related Accidents & Injuries; and
  • Lowering labor costs.

Automation Increases Competiveness and Creates new Downstream Jobs

The effect of the application of robots is a rebalancing of world manufacturing economics enabling traditionally higher labor rate countries to compete in world markets. Greater competiveness results in increased sales of manufactured products leading to increased number of manufacturing jobs and creates higher paying support jobs. This is a direct result in the re-shoring of manufacturing that the United States is experiencing today. The study provides data illustrating where automation displaces people in manufacturing it almost always increases output, creates new markets and generates the need for downstream jobs to get the product to the consumer.

The Adoption Rate of Robots is on the Rise

Manufacturing employment differs greatly by country with 11% of employment in the United States, 24% in Germany and it is as high as 27% in more recently industrialized countries such as The Republic of Korea. Overall manufacturing employment has risen in most countries cited in the study with the exception of Japan. The level of robotics use has almost always doubled in all of the six countries in the study except Japan in the eleven years covered by the study. It should be noted that Japan was out front with early adoption of robots and until recently had the most robots per manufacturing employee.

Japan and Korea have the most robots per manufacturing employee, over 300 per 10,000 employees, with Germany following at over 250 per 10,000 employees. The United States has less than half the robots per 10,000 employees compared to Japan and The Republic of Korea. The adoption rate of robots measured in number of robots per 10,000 employees in manufacturing between 2008 and 2011 is on the rise. It increased in this period by 40% in Brazil, by 210% in China, by 11% in Germany, by 57% in The Republic of Korea, and by 41% in the United States. The study describes how the adoption of robots is a relatively new development in Chinese manufacturing. Germany, which has proportionately many more robots than the United States, has achieved higher economic growth with almost no reduction in manufacturing employment.

Robots are being applied in new projects and in existing manufacturing plants. Robots provide an advantage for improving existing plant efficiencies since they can easily be added to improve operations without redesign of machines and production lines.

Application Areas

The automotive industry has been the leader in use of robots for a number of years but applications are expanding to other industries. The report explores a number of the new industry applications for robots including expansion into non-traditional industries. Another trend driving robot sales is the requirement for flexible manufacturing to satisfy requirements of mass customization and make to order manufacturing where speed and agility are required.

The food industry is cited as a prime area for growth where robot use is currently low. Robots can help meet food industry goals to increase productivity, lower worker injuries, and meet more stringent hygiene conditions. Many production jobs in food manufacturing involve repetitive, physically demanding work leading to repetitive-strain injuries. In 2007 the US Bureau of Labor reported rates of work-related injury or illness for full-time food manufacturing workers were higher than the rates for all of manufacturing and for the private sector as a whole. Robot manufacturers have designed robots to meet the unique needs of the food industry that comply with food grade equipment standards.

The pharmaceutical industry is another industry that has been slow to adopt robots but has pressure to decrease costs, increase production accuracy, and achieve flexible manufacturing. The worldwide demand for pharmaceutical products is on the rise making this another fertile industry for the use of robots.

Key Manufacturing Success Factor

The adoption of robots is increasing around the world and at companies of all sizes to be more competitive. At the IFR CEO Round Table discussion at AUTOMATE in Chicago on 22 January 2013, two small manufacturers Marlin Steel and Vickers provided concrete examples for using robots to grow their business and compete in world markets. “Automation has allowed us to compete on a global basis and it has created jobs in Southwest Michigan. If it had not been for automation we would not have beaten our Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican competitors,” said Matt Tyler, President and CEO of Vickers, at the IFR CEO Round Table.

Bill Lydon, Editor Automation.com
[email protected]


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