Robotics and automation in Germany reached a record sales volume of 14.5 billion euros (16.9 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017 and China remained the largest market, the German mechanical engineering association VDMA announced on Tuesday.
"2017 was a very strong year for our industry," says Norbert Stein chairman of VDMA Robotics and Automation. "The fact that our expectations have now once again been exceeded is a testimony to the extraordinary market dynamics in automation."
According to VDMA Robotics and Automation, exports were the main growth driver in 2017. Sales to China grew by around 60 percent compared with 2016, significantly strengthening China's position as the most important market for German robotics and automation. Large investments by the electronics industry in automation have further strengthened China's strong demand.
Exports to all other Asian countries also grew at an above-average rate of around 20 percent.
VDMA Robotics and Automation forecasts an industry growth of 9 percent to 15.8 billion euros for 2018, slightly less than the record growth of 13 percent over the previous year.
The worldwide trend towards automation and the digitization of production provide sustained growth impulses. Car manufacturers and suppliers alike are increasingly investing in electric and hybrid drives. The necessary components, especially batteries, require new production facilities.
As a consequence, manual work in factories of the future will change. Instead of transferring processes that were done by labor force to machines, the new processes are rethought entirely in order to achieve better results. In so-called "fusion skills", robotics is used to strengthen and support while people develop, test and operate the automation processes.
Speaking to Xinhua on Tuesday, labor expert Oliver Stettes from the German Economic Institute IW said that "in individual cases the robot may replace the worker. However, it is more likely that the worker will perform different tasks than before and man and machine will work side by side or together."