Japan economic revitalization plan is to double manufacturing robots and increase service robots by 20 times by 2020

Japan’s revised revitalization strategy, the Robot Revolution Initiative, is to double the use of robotics in manufacturing, and increase by twenty-fold robotics use in other sectors, including service industries. In part this is an effort to deal with the country’s declining birthrate and aging population by providing robotic helpmates in industries such as healthcare, agriculture, and the inspection and repair of the country’s infrastructure.”

The “Robotic Revolution Initiative Council” was to create a 5 year plan by the end of 2014 with the aim of addressing social challenges and realizing new industrial revolution by robots.

Four times the budget for robots, going up to $20 billion

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to expand the robot market in the near future by pouring a considerable amount of money into the project. We’re talking some 2.4 trillion Japanese Yen, or the equivalent of about $20 billion. The government is currently allocating about 600 billion Yen ($5.34 billion) into robotics, which is apparently enough to keep Japan in the lead when it comes to researching and building robots.

Japan previously showed off a cooking robot

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said

In the United States and Europe, other countries are attempting to become the leaders in new robotics by introducing new production systems that fuse IT, such as Big Data, with robotics. In this new era, if we continue to sit idly by, we are likely to simply become subcontractors of the United States and Europe.
The key to becoming a new, major player in robotics development is to spread the use of robotics from large-scale factories to every corner of our economy and society. I believe that we must transform robots into reliable partners that can support everyone who works, including those working in manufacturing in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); those working in the agricultural industry, where the working population is aging; those doing back-breaking work in the field of nursing; and those working on the inspection and repair of aging infrastructure.

We have gathered here today people from a variety of fields beyond what we typically think of when we think about the conventional image of robots as industrial machines. This includes people from the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries; the food industry; the medical and welfare industries; the communications industry; and the construction industry. This truly represents a Japan-wide effort and I would say this is befitting a celebration to mark the start of the robot revolution.

Robots will dramatically change people’s lives and society. That is what makes this a robot revolution. To think that we could find success with conventional systems is nothing more than a dream within a dream. Now is the time to boldly transform our ideas. The Government and private sector must work as one to break down the walls between industries and between ministries and agencies, and follow a shared strategy and path with their sights set on the world.

The dawn of the revolution is upon us. At one SME I visited last year, robots were working side-by-side with humans and doing finely detailed assembly work. The price for one of these robots is around 7 million yen. That is affordable, even for an SME. I was very surprised to see such a high performing robot at such a low price.

The total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots at the end of 2013 was in the range of 1,332,000 and 1,600,000 units

The minimum figure above is based on the assumption that the average length of service life is 12 years. A UNECE/IFR pilot study has indicated that the average service life of an industrial robot might in fact be as long as 15 years, which would then result in a worldwide stock of 1,600,000 units.

In 2013, the minimum stock considerably increased by 8%. Due to the tremendous decrease of robot installations in 2009, for the first time the minimum stock of 1,021,000 units in 2009 was about 1% lower than the stock of the year before. In 2010, the stock increased by 1% to the level of 2008. Since then, the stock has been increasing considerably.

Value of the market was up to US$9.5 billion

In 2013, the sales value increased by 12% to US$9.5 billion to a new peak. Unit sales also increased by 12%. It should be noted that the figures cited above generally do not include the cost of software, peripherals and systems engineering. Including the mentioned costs might result in the actual robotic systems market value to be about three times as high. The worldwide market value for robot systems in 2013 is therefore estimated to be US$29 billion

Doubling Japan’s industrial robot commitment could help it catch up to China’s total robot volume

IFR projection for professional service robots

The total number of professional service robots sold in 2013 rose by a relatively low 4% compared to 2012 to 21,000 units up from 20,200 in 2012. The sales value slightly decreased by 1.9% to US$3.57 billion.

About 134,500 new service robots for professional use to be installed

Turning to the projections for the period 2014-2017, sales forecast indicate an increase to about 134,500 units with a value of US$ 18.9 billion.

IFR service robot projection for the period 2014-2017: About 31 million units of service robots for personal use to be sold

In 2013, about 4 million service robots for personal and domestic use were sold, 28% more than in 2012. The value of sales increased to US$1.7 billion.

It is projected that sales of all types of robots for domestic tasks (vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types) could reach almost 23.9 million units in the period 2014-2017, with an estimated value of US$6.5 billion. The size of the market for toy robots and hobby systems is forecast at about 4.5 million units, most of which for obvious reasons are very low-priced. About 3 million robots for education and research are expected to be sold in the period 2014-2017.

Sales of all types of entertainment and leisure robots are projected at about 7.5 million units, with a value of about US$4.5 billion.

Sales of robots for elderly and handicap assistance will be about 12,400 units in the period of 2014-2017. This market is expected to increase substantially within the next 20 years.

SOURCES – kantei, Japan Ministry of Finance, International Federation of Robotics

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