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Kuka Whisper

Kuka Whisper
 

Research Question: Will Kuka’s reputation for quality overcome the higher price tag for its collaborative robots?

Report Available: August 27, 2015

 

Blueshift’s initial research shows lofty growth forecasts for the industrial robot industry as robots become smarter, smaller and less expensive. Kuka’s LBR iiwa robot is among the newer generation of collaborative robots that are safe and nimble enough to collaborate with humans in light manufacturing. However, the LBR iiwa is more expensive than other collaboratives and China is facing a recession that may slow manufacturers’ capital expenditures on automation.

 

Observations

  1. The industrial robots market, currently valued at $10 billion, is expected to reach $49 billion by 2021. China accounted for 25% of global industrial robot purchasesin 2014 as rising wages and labor shortages pushed manufacturers to consider robotic assembly solutions. On average, a robot saved Chinese manufacturers over 18% in labor costs. One Chinese appliance company aspires to cut 10,000 of its 30,000 workers by 2018 as it increases its automation capabilities with robots.
  2. Not every labor-intensive assembly environment can be saved by a robot. In China, a robot is cost effective only if it replaces three or more workers. Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn found that humans work better than robots with delicate items like Apple products, since automated solutions tend to scratch Apple product casings.
  3. Kuka offers its LBR iiwa collaborative robot for $25,000 ($75,000 installed.) An example of the LBR iiwa in actionis on an appliance assembly line where the robot attaches hoses and completes difficult screw-driving tasks while a human worker completes parallel work steps. Kuka believes the warehouse is the next destination for its robots e.g. adding a sorting arm onto Amazon’s Kiva AGV robot.
  4. Kuka may struggle to fully penetrate Chinese manufacturers as China’s economy continues to soften and more competitors enter the collaborative space. Kuka’s collaborative LBR iiwa robot faces less expensive alternativessuch as TER’s Universal Robotics UR series, Rethink’s Sawyer, and Fanuc’s CR-35iA. Lesser-known competitors from China, Swiss company F&P Robotics, and ABB’s gomtec have begun offering collaboratives as well. ABB’s Yumi collaborative has two arms and starts at $40,000.

 

Will Chinese manufactures buy collaborative robots as China’s economy contracts? Will they chose Kuka’s more expensive LBR iiwa over competitors? To gain insight into Kuka and the collaborative robot market, Blueshift will gather data and issue a market research report from independent sources in the following areas: Robotics manufacturers, Factory owners, Robotics designers, and Robotics industry consultants.

 

Companies: KUKA (KU2.DE), ABB ltd (ABB), Teradyne (TER), Fanuc (TYO: 6954), Amazon (AMZN)