Opportunities for adopting robotic applications in Romania
While in the most developed European countries the combination of decreasing robot prices and high wages boosts robotization, these driving factors do not sufficiently explain why European countries with low wages are experiencing today a sharp increase in deployment of industrial robots. Particularly, in Central and Eastern Europe where a decade ago industrial robots were almost nonexistent but today more than 30 000 robots are at work.
The beginning in Romania
If the beginning of the Romanian robotics “occurred” much later than on the world level (1979) instead the 80s were characterized by a special effervescence throughout the entire field of robotics, from fundamental research to industrial applications and even the construction of robots with performances quite close to those known at the time, states a 2008 study titled “Realizations In The Romanian Robotics Of The 1980s”.
In Romania, the research for the production of industrial serial robots started in 1979 by Automatica S.A. together with the Institute of Design for Automation (IPA) and the Institute of Research and Design for Machine Tools “Titan”. That research materialized in the development of three types of industrial robots: RIS-63 with hydraulic actuation in spherical coordinates, RIC-25 with electric drive in cylindrical coordinates, RIP-6,3 with electric drive in polar coordinates. Of these, the RIP-6,3 robot produced by Automatica S.A. has been particularly successful, being implemented in many industrial applications: continuous welding, spot welding, machine tool tending, handling. The success of the research teams led by Dan Cosmin, Eng. Paul Orbesteanu, Eng. Stefan Frustok, Eng. D. Bruda, Eng. A. Moanga was confirmed with the RIP-6,3 robot receiving the “Traian Vuia Award” of the Romanian Academy in 1983.
The research in the field of robotics carried out between 1979 and 1992 created the premise for making in Romania some avant-garde products at that time, comparable in performance with those of the world level, despite the deficient material base and the low reliability of the components from which they were made. Specialists were trained in the multidisciplinary field of robotics and specializations were created in universities in the field of robotics in order to institutionalize future specialists. Automatica S.A. established itself as a center of excellence that trained and stimulated robotics specialists, to create and build high performance robots and their applications, despite the shortcomings regarding the material and information base of that period.
Romania’s position in the EU
Romania falls behind most developed countries in the EU, with only 4% of its enterprises making use of service or industrial robots in 2020. This percentage is based on 1% of all enterprises that adopted service robots and the 3% of enterprises that financed the use of industrial robots. These numbers fall outside the most developed countries’ pattern of distribution, based on robot type; as the percentages of industrial robots used by enterprises from countries such as Denmark (9%), Belgium, Slovenia, and Finland (all 8%) are higher than the percentages calculated for the use of service robots for the same period and countries (Denmark – 5%, Belgium – 2%, Slovenia – 1%, and Finland—3%), states the scientific publication “Better Integration of Industrial Robots in Romanian Enterprises and the Labour Market”.
Additionally, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) revealed that in 2018, Romania had a robot density of only 18 robots for every 10 000 workers, falling again far behind the Central and Eastern European countries, and far behind the worldwide average robot density of 113 robots/10 000 workers.
Another concern noticed in the case of Romania’s robotics market is that according to Eurostat data small enterprises are quite reserved in implementing robotics, being “five times less likely to use robots than large firms”.
“Proving this point, a share of 13% of all large enterprises in Romania implemented service or industrial robots in 2020, while only 3% of small enterprises and 5% of medium enterprises invested in this direction. One possible explanation for such a low level of robotics use implementation percentages in the case of Romanian enterprises can be credited to the higher-than-average uncertainty about the future (81% in Romania versus 72% on EU average), which stands in the way of major investments, as highlighted by the European’s Commission Country Report in 2020. When compared to the general share of enterprises using industrial robots in other countries in the European Union, Romania falls behind, registering below average results”, conclude the authors of “Better Integration of Industrial Robots in Romanian Enterprises and the Labour Market”.
From an industry point of view, the most robotized enterprises in 2020 were found in manufacturing-related sectors. Romania follows this trend, having the highest registered share of enterprises using industrial robots out of the total enterprises using industrial robots for industries such as the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, or other transport equipment (with 21% of all enterprises using industrial robots; 13% of enterprises in manufacturing of computer, electronic, and optical products using industrial robots; and 13% of enterprises in manufacturing of basic metals and fabricated metal products, excluding machines and equipment, using industrial robots).
For the year 2020, the least automated of Romania’s enterprises fell in categories such as accommodation, real estate, computer programming, consultancy and related activities, information service activities or travel agencies; tour operators, enterprises offering reservation services or related activities reported no use of industrial robots.
When looking at the average share of manufacturing-related enterprises using industrial robots out of the total enterprises that used industrial robots in selected EU countries (with countries with missing data being excluded) for the years 2018 and 2020, it is noticeable that Romania still fell behind the average share calculated for both years (of 17,39%, having an average share of manufacturing enterprises of only 8,42% for 2020). Even though for most countries 2020 showed an increase in the use of industrial robots in manufacturing-related enterprises compared to 2018, Romania registered a decrease of 0,04 percentage points, which may indicate a lack of capacity for enterprises to finance new investments in equipment and technology.
The European automotive robotics market and Romania
According to a report by Inkwood Research the European automotive robotics market is set to project a CAGR of 11,01% over the period of 2021 to 2028. The regional market’s growth is mainly credited to the manufacturing industry’s large-scaled competitiveness and flexibility, the augmented presence of key players, and the advanced research and development ecosystem.
The European automotive robotics market growth analysis constitutes the assessment of Romania, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Russia, Italy, France, Hungary, Germany, and the rest of Europe. The development of the region’s automotive sector over recent years significantly favors the swift automation across Romania, as well.
In this regard, robotic density, or the number of industrial robots per 10 000 employees, increased from 7 to 18 units in five years. Moreover, according to IFR, approximately 3100 robots are employed in Romania, with 40% utilized in the automotive industry.
Dacia’s plant in Mioveni operates with more than 800 industrial robots for producing motor vehicles, approx. 80% of the parts are transferred by being automatically synchronized, while self-driven vehicle runs 31,5 km a day, which allows the company to produce one vehicle every 54 seconds.
Ford has equipped the assembling plant in Craiova, Uzina de Asamblare a Vehiculelor, with 550 robots. Cobots have been also deployed on the engine assembly line where they grease camshafts, fill engines with oil and perform quality inspections. The cobots help Ford deliver a faster production throughput while also relieving employees of repetitive tasks. They were installed because Ford Motor Company was looking for solutions to enhance their manual workforce generating added value to the manufacturing process. In doing this, the company realized the need for new automation solutions that could offer space savings, collaborate with people, be moved around when needed, while also providing a high degree of safety and a fast return of investment (ROI).
Romania needs no less than 10 000 robots across the economy in order to make it become competitive in the region in the future, according to a recent estimation by Universal Robots, one of the world’s largest robot vendors.
LATEST issue 4/2023