BMW places major order for 5,000 industrial robots

Posted on 22 Apr 2020 by Jonny Williamson

BMW AG has signed an agreement with KUKA for the supply of around 5,000 robots destined for new production lines and factories around the world.

According to KUKA, the industrial robots will put to use around the world at the international production sites of the BMW Group for the manufacture of the current and future generations of vehicle models.

The various robot models are expected to be used primarily in body-in-white production and other technologies.

KUKA Industrial Robots - A liner unit offers an additional axis to the robot, extending the work area.
A liner unit offers an additional axis to the robot, extending the work area.

The scope of the agreement also includes other innovative products from the KUKA portfolio such as its linear units, used to increase the workspace of the robot, and energy supply technology.

Financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed.

A tough 12 months

The announcement will come as a welcome boost for KUKA having cited core market difficulties in its 2019 financial year report.  Total orders received and revenues were down by 3.5% and 1.5% respectively.

Referring to the 10.6% decline its Systems business experienced, KUKA noted that “the technology-driven trend in the automotive industry towards the conversion of existing production lines instead of installing new systems contributed to a significant reduction in the size of the market.”

Nevertheless, its 2019 Systems sales revenues remained at the same level as 2018, €925.4m.

In a similar vein, KUKA’s Robotics business saw orders down by 13.3% in 2019 compared to 2018, with a corresponding 7.1% drop in sales revenues.

In its recent annual report, KUKA cited the trade dispute between China and the US, and the global discussion on climate protection and sustainability as being significant factors in its 2019 results.

The report states: “[Climate protection and sustainability] have considerable influence on the industrial sectors that are traditionally of key importance to KUKA.

“KUKA was therefore faced with significant reluctance on the part of customers in the automotive industry to make investment decisions in the 2019 fiscal year. The company countered these developments with a larger cost-cutting program and the continued focus on innovative automation solutions in the general industry sector.”

2020 outlook

Its annual report forecasts an already challenging 2020 being compounded by the Covid-19 outbreak.

It notes:  “The Coronavirus pandemic currently spreading around the world is facing us all with an unprecedented challenge. Not only the economic impact, but also the political and social consequences cannot yet be seriously foreseen. We must assume that KUKA too will be substantially affected.”

That being said, KUKA is has a strong presence in many of the sectors seeing increased activity as a result of the epidemic, such as online and digital services, logistics, robotic automation and healthcare.

*All images courtesy of KUKA.