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‘Chinese competition intensifying in robotics’

by Pieter Werner

Germany’s VDMA Robotics and Automation group has revised its growth forecast for 2024, now predicting a modest increase in sales of 2% to 16.5 billion euros. This comes after a record turnover of 16.2 billion euros in 2023, which marked a 13% rise from the previous year. The domestic market is currently experiencing a decline in incoming orders, attributed to hesitant investment from uncertain customers amid a subdued economic environment.

Frank Konrad, Chairman of VDMA Robotics + Automation, highlighted the need for improved investment frameworks and new measures to bolster Germany’s economic competitiveness. Despite the domestic challenges, the industry anticipates growth driven by international demand, with incoming orders from overseas rising by 21% in the first four months of 2024.

Competition from China is also intensifying, with Chinese firms increasingly targeting the European market. China’s industrial automation sector is highly advanced, boasting a robot density of 392 units per 10,000 employees, comparable to Japan’s 397 units and Germany’s 415 units. Beijing’s strategic promotion of its robotics industry, coupled with ongoing trade disputes with the USA, is leading Chinese companies to establish local service and sales structures within Germany and the EU.

The VDMA has outlined a strategy in its “Robotics and Automation 2028” paper, which includes recommendations for industrial policy measures, accelerated innovation, talent promotion, and pragmatic regulation. Konrad emphasized the importance of rapid implementation of these measures to maintain Germany’s competitive edge in the global robotics and automation market.

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