In a packed 1,000-seat hall at iREX 2013 in Tokyo, six prominent robot executives from ABB, Fanuc, Yaskawa, KUKA, Kawasaki and Nachi faced off against two really big users.
Dr. Chia Day, VP at Foxconn Technology, described in careful detail where robots are needed in their factories, what tasks they need to do, what hurdles there are, and, to some extent, what they are doing in-house. Their most immediate need is in electronics assembly – machining, polishing, painting, laser welding, die casting, palletizing and inspections. Automated assembly will come later.
Kei Shimizu, from Nissan Motors, described how Nissan/Renault has grown from a Japanese company to one that is truly global. This requires standardization in robotics in all their factories and lines. Their needs are to add functions (vision and mobility) and flexibility (they do 20-40 line changes every year), and lower costs not only of the robots but also the costs of integration, space, power and training.
It could have been a terrifically informative story about the future. Instead, all the users received for describing their needs was six nicely presented corporate puff pieces containing little of plans for the future and even less about new technologies to handle user needs.