Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Volkswagen to boost its robot numbers

Volkswagen is about to place an order for a large number of industrial robots offering a lucrative prize to the successful robot vendor.  Increasingly, these robots will be used for assembly work and one robot builder may not be able to cope with all of VW's needs.

The move is likely to be repeated several times over the coming 15 years as 32,000 people are expected to leave the German vehicle builder.

"We now have the possibility to replace more people with robots," said Horst Neumann, head of human resources at VW. "The robots are needed to support existing trainees."

According to Neumann there are not enough young people available to replace those going into retirement. Writing in Suddeutsch Zeitung, Neumann explained that a robotic replacement for a worker costs five euros a hour. And predictably, the next generation of robotic devices will be even cheaper, he noted. This is the first time that the cost of robot installation has been made open.

"We have to make the most of this advantage," he said.

The problem is the cost of labour. In Germany, labour costs 40 euros an hour compared with 11 euros an hour in Eastern Europe, while according to Neumann, costs are still less than 10 euros an hour in China.

Neumann's comment will be like music to the ears of robot builders such as KUKA and ABB - the latter already supplies robots to VW. But there are other robot builders too like Fanuc, Kawasaki, Nachi,  Reis, Staubli and Yaskawa.

But Neumann's comments can also be taken as a warning to VW's component suppliers, especially those in Germany who will be required also to step up to the table and introduce more robotic automation, especially in assembly. And it is a green light also to the likes of ABB, Grob-Werke and KUKA to place more emphasis on developing more advanced automated assembly machines.


1 comment:

Willy Persson said...

The CGI-foundrys at Mannheim, Fritz Winter and Brühl must have the same problem with recruiting young replacements in their workforce and I think that there are investigating in an all automated calibratration from Swedish world leader Sintercast. As the volumes are increasing it´s closer to an installation.