Japan industrial robot orders slip 24% in 2023, anemic China imports lead slump

Besides, due to the growing clout of domestic manufacturers, some homegrown industrial robots have started to substitute imports in ever bigger numbers.

Japan’s industrial robot exports to China fell by 2.7 billion yuan (US$380 million), or down 18.62% year on year, to about 11.8 billion yuan through 2023.

Fanuc, one of the “Big Four” industrial robot producers, recorded a forecast decline of 28% in net profit from the same period the previous year in the fiscal year of 2023, ending March 31, 2024, the company said on January 26.

Fanuc blamed its lackluster performance on a decline in orders experienced by its factory automation unit.

Yaskawa, another “Big Four” player, also released financial numbers for 2023 on January 12.

Its robotic unit reported revenue of 3.1 billion yuan during the previous fiscal quarter (September to November), a decrease of 6% over a year earlier.

Yaskawa also pointed to sluggish investment in China as a source of its flat growth.

China has emerged as the world’s largest market for industrial robot, representing more than 50% of the overall demand.

Nonetheless, the market lost its luster beginning in 2022 thanks to a drastically slowing economy and falling demand at home.

Besides, due to the growing clout of domestic manufacturers, some homegrown industrial robots have started to substitute imports in ever bigger numbers.

Japanese analysts predicted that the market woes in China are there to stay throughout 2024.

In 2023, orders for Japanese-made industrial robots slumped 24.3% year on year, to 723.7 billion yen, or roughly 35 billion yuan, Japan Robot Association (JRA) said.

In October-December, orders received by Japanese manufacturers amounted to the equivalent of 7.7 billion yuan, down 28.6% from the same period the previous year.

This decline was the biggest on record since 2005, with the sector also registering a 19.8% plunge in production volume.

Businesses have a strong desire to invest in automation and robotics amid a labor shortage worldwide, but many choose to take a wait-and-see attitude, putting investments on hold, in the face of economic uncertainty, said JRA.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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