Spanish robotics sector: situation and prospects
For years, only great corporates have been able to afford cost-reduction Today, cost reduction can also drive modernization and re-industrialization of SMEs, the backbone of the industrial fabric.
Service robotics is the key sector where market is expected to see a commercial boom.
One of the principles of tech sector, a constant repeated over and over almost like a mantra, is that we are witnessing the birth of the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution, and Spain is no exception to it.
We are high up in the ranking of countries with the highest ratio of industrial robots per number of employees. According to the latest survey carried out by IFR (International Federation of Robotics), Spain ranks 11th globally and 4th at European level, only after Germany, Italy and France.
The biggest part of the robot stock is in the automotive industry, followed by metallurgic, plastics, chemical and food.
However, a survey carried out by SEPI Foundation (organization attached to the Spanish Ministry of Finance) showed that only one third of Spanish industry companies used robots during the 2014-2016 period. How’s that possible?
The difference between data provided by IFR and those published by SEPI Foundation lies in the fact that the former looks at units installed in the four main sectors, which are dominated by big corporates, therefore resulting in a high number of robots. Data from the SEPI survey, however, are drawn from the overall number of industry companies, of whom one third are SMEs. It is precisely in this market niche (small and medium companies) where the use of this technologies has great potential.
Democratization of robotics
In this revolution, there are two technologies that stand out above the rest:
- Cobots, collaborative robots with industrial capacity and designed to work hand in hand with humans.
- Autonomous mobile robotics, also with collaborative skills and several purposes such as: in-factory intralogistics transportation; warehouse management; workers’ assistance and, as shown by latest developments, a combined use with cobots which allows to perform operations in moving manufacturing lines.
However, the real game changer is cost-reduction, which, as far as cobots are concerned, yields acquisition and start-up prices that are much lower than those of their industrial brothers. This can drive re-industrialization and modernization of the backbone of the industrial fabric, leaving behind the years when only big corporates could afford robotics.
Spain stands out as a reference in these technologies. In the case of cobots, is not the (rather low) number of manufacturers but the sheer number of companies that develop tools to give these robots the skills needed for their exploitation (artificial vision systems, palletizing, wielding, etc.).
The situation is a bit different as far as mobile robotics is concerned, for there is a high number of manufacturers in Spain and some of them are even market leaders.
Beyond the industrial environment, trends in the robotics sector are defined by the upcoming developments in the fields of aerial robotics, logistics, transportation, agro-food industries, security, infrastructure control and retail, as well as social, assistential and health robotics. It is in this new dimension known as service robotics (together with AI, 5G and the resto of the digital technologies) where the market is bound to see a real boom, something much bigger than in industrial environments.
In Spain, it is worth mentioning the great opportunity presented for the agro-food sector, where important developments are starting to take place regarding robotic system implementation.
Logistic robotics, in turn, is defined as the area that will experience the biggest absolute growth in upcoming years.