Although still behind the leaders on the industrial robots market, Poland’s robotics industry grows rather dynamically. The demand for robots depends mainly on the situation in the automotive industry which is doing quite well. Good news is also a recovery in some other industry sectors.
Position on the global industrial robots markets is best indicated by the so-called robot density ratio, that is an average number of robots per 10 thousand people employed in industry. With ratio of 28 Poland is not only behind the global leaders (in 2015 the leader was South Korea with the ratio equal to 531), but also below the market average which is 69. A small progress in robotization of Polish industry is to a large extent caused by a small share of the automotive sector in the whole industrial processing. Slovakia and Czech Republic are better in that respects and automatically have a higher industry robotization level.
Dynamic changes in robotics
A visible factor blocking the robotization in Poland is the resistance of Polish companies to investing in robots. There is still a widespread opinion that a robot costs plenty of money, is difficult to install, program and operate, and in addition is little flexible and suitable only for large scale production of a constant range of products. As a result, many industrialists perceive the production robotization mainly as costs and technical problems, and not as long-term benefits which determine the competitive advantage of the company and its market position.
Such approach does not take into account the changes which take place in the area of robotics, particularly in terms of robot ability to perform various production tasks, ensure safety of the users and the robotization-related costs. Thanks to successively developed technology and improvement of technical and economic parameters, the robots now are capable of performing more and more varying tasks, and in addition they do it faster, more accurately and less expensively. In particular, multi-arm robots and robots cooperating with humans (so-called kobots) are now one of the most flexible production equipment available. Correctly applied and configured, they can make one-off products and not the series without the need to change the line set-up. In addition, after operation of one work centre is completed, the robot can be easily used to build another work station.
The small are more popular
Representatives of almost all leading global companies are present on the Polish robotics market. There are also local distributors, in general connected with a given brand. The suppliers also provide technical consultancy services, can help make suitable applications and plan preventive maintenance or estimate costs of future upgrade or staff training. As result of presence of major world suppliers of industrial robots, in terms of access to advanced robotics Poland is not behind other European markets.
The main buyers of industrial robots are divisions of multinational corporations, and – to a lesser degree – native industrial plants. The Polish robotics market is in practice less absorptive for national suppliers that it would seem from the number of installed robots. A part of the investment, particularly in the automotive industry, is performed by foreign companies which order robots at manufacturers outside Poland.
The best sellers on the Polish market are small robots with 5–6 kg payload (their market share reaches 40%) and medium-payload robots 10–100 kg (45%). The least demand is for large-payload robots of few hundred kilograms (15%) which earlier were one third of the sales. The reason is progress in robotization of food-processing, electronic and electrical industries where mainly small robots are used, often SCARA or parallel kinematics type, which allow a fast and precise manipulation of small details.
In terms of number of industrial robots, the automotive sector is the clear leader with 45% of the total. One fifth of the robots work in production of rubber and plastic parts and 12.4% in metal industry. Then comes electronic and electrical industry (4.5%), machinery and equipment sector (3.2%) and food processing industry (3.1%).
Poland also has an aftermarket which allows an easily sale and purchase of robots at attractive prices. However it should be noted that second-hand machines usually require higher maintenance expenditures. The cost calculation must also include higher risk of breakdown and related production downtime.