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Japanese Robot Makers, Including Fanuc and Denso, Collaborate to Cut Costs for SMEs with Shared Database

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In a collaborative effort, leading Japanese industrial robot manufacturers, including Fanuc, Denso, and Panasonic Holdings, are pioneering a shared database to significantly reduce costs for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) looking to implement robots. The initiative aims to boost productivity in the 99.7% of Japan’s companies represented by SMEs, where low productivity hinders overall economic growth.

The Robot Industrial Basic Technology Collaborative Innovation Partnership (ROBOCIP), comprised of key players like Yaskawa Electric, Nachi-Fujikoshi, and Mitsubishi Electric, has developed a system set to debut in 2024. The planned database will offer SMEs free access to basic information on robot specifications, operations, and software, facilitating more cost-effective robot adoption.

Smaller companies often face financial challenges in introducing robots, with costs extending beyond the robot itself to include sensors, peripheral equipment, and system development. The total investment for a standard robot arm typically amounts to around 50 million yen ($334,000).

ROBOCIP’s solution involves sharing information on robot operation and adjustment, reducing the complexity of introducing robots and enabling companies to choose more suitable equipment. This collaborative effort aims to cut capital investment to less than 20 million yen, offering a substantial cost reduction for SMEs.

Trials for the system will involve participation from the University of Tokyo and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, with support from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The open-source database is intended to enhance the international competitiveness of the Japanese robot industry, with plans for potential future fee-based services and the incorporation of generative artificial intelligence to simplify automation processes. The move comes as Japanese robot manufacturers aim to regain global market share amidst rising competition from Chinese counterparts, with their current share having declined from 70% to approximately 40%.

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