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Publix Grocery Wants to Deliver Alcohol to Consumers’ Doorsteps

Mishal Omar

 – Dec 12, 2017
References: wlrn.org

Publix Grocery is looking to offer something new and convenient this holiday season, and decided to do this by taking part in the ever-expanding delivery movement in North America.

Publix Grocery is looking to expand its Publix Liquor Stores, and so offering online orders of alcohol is a significant step in this process. The grocer, based in Lakeland, partnered with Instacart in order to properly form its delivery service. The process itself is simple enough, with consumers deciding what they want to purchase online, entering their birth date and agreeing that they won’t be under the influence upon receiving the beverages. Delivery drivers will check consumers’ IDs before giving them the alcohol, ensuring that the entire process is completely safe and legal.

Amazon key

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

 December 7
 3:46
We tried Amazon Key. The strangers it let in our door wasn’t the worst part.

The Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler tests Amazon Key, a new service that allows Amazon deliverers to open your door with digital key. 

I gave Amazon.com a key to go into my house and drop off packages when I’m not around. After two weeks, it turns out letting strangers in has been the least-troubling part of the experience.

Once Amazon owned my door, I was the one locked into an all-Amazon world.

When Amazon first floated the idea of Amazon Key, an Internet-connected lock it can access, people had two responses. 1) THIS IS CREEPY. 2) I kind of want this, so my packages don’t get stolen.

 

But make no mistake, the $250 Amazon Key isn’t just about stopping thieves. It’s the most aggressive effort I’ve seen from a tech giant to connect your home to the Internet in a way that puts itself right at the center.

The Amazon Cloud Cam live streams and archives deliveries with Amazon Key. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye. So I put an Amazon-compatible smart lock on my door (installation was included) and hooked up its companion Cloud Cam nearby to record who comes and goes. Then I ordered enough Amazon packages to earn overtime for Santa’s elves.

The good news is nobody ran off with my boxes — or burgled my house.

The bad news is Amazon missed four of my in-home deliveries and charged me (on top of a Prime membership) for gear that occasionally jammed and makes it awkward to share my own door with people, apps, services — and, of course, retailers — other than Amazon.

“Amazon Key has had a positive reception from customers since its launch last month,” Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish said. “There have been situations where we haven’t gotten it right with a delivery and we use these situations to continue making improvements to the service.”

Big tech companies love building walled gardens, in ham-handed attempts to keep customers loyal. But for an ask this big (total access to your home, after all), Amazon needs to make Key better.

Amazon Key works with three different smart locks including the Kwikset Convert that we tested, shown here. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

Smart locks get a purpose

Amazon’s path to home domination requires persuading Americans to connect appliances and everyday things to the Internet — thermostats, lights, even water filters. With the Echo speaker and Alexa talking assistant, it’s had more luck than most companies at getting us interested.

What Amazon gets right is that the so-called smart home has to solve real problems. Smart locks have been around for years, but Amazon Key finds a real use for them: stopping package theft.

Amazon smartly paired the lock with its security Cloud Cam. Having a camera — which only you can watch, and which must be powered up for the door to unlock — makes this a little less terrifying. (If the power goes out, you can always open the door with an old-fashioned key.)

When you use Amazon Key, you get a phone alert with a window when a delivery might occur. If no one is home, the delivery person taps an appthat grants one-time access to unlock your door, places the package inside, then relocks the door. (They don’t recommend Key if you have a pet, and won’t come in if they hear barking.) The moment the door unlocks, the Cloud Cam starts recording — and sends you a live stream of the whole thing. It’s a surreal 15 seconds.

Amazon’s delivery people are all business. When we left cookies and a sign, shown here, they didn’t bite. (Geoffrey A. Fowler/The Washington Post)

Even if your family runs on Prime shipping, this scenario would likely test your faith in Amazon. There are certainly less-invasive ways to keep packages safe, like lockboxes or shipping to the office. The company promises deliveries are only made by carriers that Amazon thinks are trustworthy. (The drivers are contractors vetted by Amazon’s own background check vendor.) It also says that it will “correct the problem” if your property gets damaged. (In the fine print, you also agree to arbitration, rather than a lawsuit, if something goes really wrong.)

Amazon’s drivers earned high marks for discretion. Most of them opened the door just enough to slide in a package. None of them stopped to use the toilet. None of them took a cookie — not even when I set some by the door with a card.

The Amazon workers are no doubt aware they’re under digital surveillance. Amazon’s systems monitor their whereabouts before they can unlock the door, and when they lock it again.

If only it worked

Worry about a creepy driver turned out to just be the beginning of Amazon Key’s problems.

The other reason smart home tech has been a tough slog for Silicon Valley is that houses come in so many shapes and ages. And there’s a lot at stake if tech fails where you live.

My Amazon Key setup was finicky, even though Amazon sent someone to help.My installer was friendly, but found a problem with my decades-old door he wasn’t authorized to fix — the spot where the deadbolt went into the frame slightly misaligned. I paid a locksmith $100 for a new strike plate, which was Amazon’s recommendation.

That wasn’t enough. From time to time, my Kwikset Convert lock makes a screech that would alarm a hyena, and flashes a warning in the Key app about jamming.

Even worse, that happened during an Amazon delivery. Fortunately, the driver kept trying until the door actually locked. Amazon said it thinks my lock is not properly installed. I also might have had a better experience with one of the two other compatible smart locks, whose designs are bulkier.

Then I heard Amazon Key could be hacked. Researchers found a way a rogue delivery person could cause the security camera to freeze and then potentially lurk in your house. Amazon said customers weren’t really at risk, but pushed a software update to provide quicker notifications if the camera goes offline during delivery.

The biggest head scratcher: Of eight in-home deliveries, Amazon missed its original delivery window on four of them. It sent some inaccurate alerts about when packages might arrive, which is especially unnerving when drivers might be entering your house. (The packages all arrived eventually, a day or more late.) This is a record-breaking online shopping season, but this is the part of the business I expect Amazon to get right.

Amazon drivers making in-home deliveries knock first, then use an app that grants one-time access to unlock the door. (Geoffrey A. Fowler/The Washington Post)

Who owns your door?

When you add Amazon Key to your door, something more sneaky also happens: Amazon takes over.

You can leave your keys at home and unlock your door with the Amazon Key app — but it’s really built for Amazon deliveries. To share online access with family and friends, I had to give them a special code to SMS (yes, text) to unlock the door. (Amazon offers other smartlocks that have physical keypads).

The Key-compatible locks are made by Yale and Kwikset, yet don’t work with those brands’ own apps. They also can’t connect with a home-security system or smart-home gadgets that work with Apple and Google software.

And, of course, the lock can’t be accessed by businesses other than Amazon. No Walmart, no UPS, no local dog-walking company.

Keeping tight control over Key might help Amazon guarantee security or a better experience. “Our focus with smart home is on making things simpler for customers — things like providing easy control of connected devices with your voice using Alexa, simplifying tasks like reordering household goods and receiving packages,” the Amazon spokeswoman said.

But Amazon is barely hiding its goal: It wants to be the operating system for your home. Amazon says Key will eventually work with dog walkers, maids and other service workers who bill through its marketplace. An Amazon home security service and grocery delivery from Whole Foods can’t be far off. (Walmart has announced plans to test delivering groceries straight to the refrigerator with a smart lock maker called August.)

Amazon said it doesn’t have access to data about when you lock your door or the video feed from the Cloud Cam — both good things. But surely its data team is also crunching the numbers on how Key changes your consumer behavior, especially whether you are buying more stuff from Amazon.

What’s so bad about living in an all-Amazon house? The company doesn’t always have the best prices, or act in ways that benefit consumers. For example, it’s currently in a spat with Google, whose smart-home products like Chromecast and Google Home are not carried by Amazon — and who retaliated by blocking access to its YouTube apps on some Amazon products. (Grow up, you two!)

After two weeks, my family voted to remove the Amazon Key smart lock and take down the camera.

Amazon Key did give me some peace of mind about delivery theft. But the trade-off is giving more power over your life to a company that probably already has too much.

FEATURE

Is grocery e-commerce just hype, or a supply chain disruptor?

What Was Hot In Supply Chain Technology In 2017?

 
I cover logistics and supply chain management.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Maturity Curve for Hot Supply Chain Technologies

When it comes to new technology, development usually proceeds incrementally. But progress continues to be made on many fronts. Here is a look at some critical new technologies, and how the ARC Advisory Group assesses their maturity.

3D Printing of Spare Parts

The opportunity to use 3D printing – more accurately labeled “additive manufacturing” – to print spare parts is widely recognized.  In ARC’s conversations with industry insiders, we have come across many companies that have beta projects and are printing a small number of parts, but no company that is doing this at scale. There are a number of challenges associated with scaling additive manufacturing in the supply chain. However, the challenges are not insurmountable. New cloud-based solutions are very promising.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Supply Chain Applications

Artificial intelligence (AI) is hot.  Crunchbase reported that over the last year over $4 billion in venture capital has been invested in AI firms just in the US.  Investments in AI and machine learning are key drivers in the ‘arms-race’ between software vendors to achieve differentiation in this space. These technologies are poised to make implementation easier, forecasting better, risk management more proactive, and also ease usability. But in most cases, these new capabilities have not yet been baked into the standard products.

Autonomous Mobile Robots for the Warehouse

When Amazon purchased Kiva Systems in 2012, interest in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for the warehouse soared.  Even though these solutions are not yet widely deployed (except at Amazon), they cannot be considered an immature or emerging technology.  Amazon has proven they can be used at scale with a solid ROI. And Locus Robotics is proving they are a solid alternative to a looming warehouse labor shortage. But a revolution in robotic automation may be emerging. The combination of mobile robots and picking arms is potentially revolutionary.  Rochester Drug Coop has implemented a solution from IAM Robotics with future phases already planned. The Founder of Locus Robotics and the CEO of IAM Robotics will be speaking on this topic at ARC Advisory Group’s Annual Industry Forum in Orlando in February.

Autonomous Trucks

We’ve been on the journey toward autonomous vehicles longer than many realize.  Yet, despite the billions of dollars invested in multiple autonomous vehicle technologies, the road to fully autonomous vehicles operating in an urban environment involves surmounting almost un-imaginable technological hurdles.  Additionally, legal, infrastructure, and economic hurdles still need to be overcome. One sign that the hurdles are high is that Warren Buffet made a multibillion dollar investment premised, in part, on his belief that this technology is being overhyped. In the short term, truck platooning might provide some fuel savings, but relatively few truckers or shippers are likely to be able to take advantage of these developments.

SNEW Data

SNEW data – social media, news, event, and weather data – has great potential to improve supply chain capabilities in three ways: improved forecasting, risk detection and response, and dynamic optimization.  The solution is already proven in terms of enabling enhanced supply chain resiliency capabilities.  In the other areas leading supply chain software suppliers, like JDA, have interesting product development in this area.

The Uberization of Freight

Some big name investors have invested in startups that use Uber-type technology to disrupt the freight industry the same way Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Even Uber and Amazon have entered the fray. There are real reasons to doubt whether investments seeking to transform this industry will pay off.  Uber style functionality will most affect a relatively small portion of the trucking industry, the spot market. Larger shippers sign long term contracts with select carriers after going through detailed procurement engagements. They tend to work with carriers that are large and can be reliably counted on to be available when loads need to ship. The Uber style solutions make the most sense for shippers that have a shipment going to an unusual location. The carriers that will be most likely to find value from an Uber style application will be owner operators and very small carriers. Still, Uber-style apps that operate on truckers’ smart phones are poised to provide much, much better logistics visibility.  And that is a real benefit.  Descartes’ acquisition of Macropoint will allow these Uber visibility apps to be sold by a mature and established company.

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

harassment

Boldface names have grabbed most of the attention. In the weeks since the story broke of Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long pattern of sexual harassment, Charlie Rose, John Lasseter, U.S. Senator Al Franken, candidate Roy Moore, former President George H.W. Bush and a long list of others have been accused of inappropriate behavior.

Revelations about how women have been treated – a spectrum of transgressions ranging from insensitive behavior to alleged sexual contact with minors – have unleashed what could become a reckoning in all sectors. Movie studios, media companies and the halls of government are, after all, workplaces, and Weinstein has unexpectedly opened up a deluge, despite — or perhaps because of — having a sitting U.S. president who has been accused of, and has even bragged about, similar behavior.

But the #MeToo movement notwithstanding, will anything really change? Is this public discussion leading to cultural or structural shifts in which individuals can finally raise claims about treatment in the office or on the factory floor while still feeling safe?

Don’t bet on it, says Peter Cappelli, Wharton management professor and director of the School’s Center for Human Resources. “I think the big challenge is that we have in recent years moved power away from bureaucracies and rules in companies and toward individual leaders. So we have many institutions where the leaders are all-powerful,” he notes. “The fact that boards of directors in many companies are still chaired by the CEO is one manifestation of putting a leader above monitoring by the organization. How can we make it safe to challenge people in organizations who are so powerful? I don’t see an easy way to do that. I don’t see many company leaders being OK with the ability of individual employees to challenge their behavior or to turn over assessments of their behavior to an independent third party. It is still very dangerous for employees to challenge leaders in most organizations on anything as consequential as a harassment charge.”

“It is still very dangerous for employees to challenge leaders in most organizations on anything as consequential as a harassment charge.”–Peter Cappelli

Many firms have gutted their HR departments and rely on supervisors to field complaints, points out Janice R. Bellace, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics. “However, in many cases, the supervisor has been the problem,” she says. “Sexual harassment is often a manifestation of power. The supervisor has power over the employee and can effectively demand that the employee tolerate sexual advances – or worse – or tolerate a hostile working environment. To whom should the employee complain when the supervisor is the problem and there is no HR office?”

Absent HR or an ombudsman, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, she asks – who will guard against the guardians?

The Power of Self-delusion

One striking aspect of responses from the recent crop of men accused of sexual misconduct is the visible process of them grappling with what they did as wrong, says Wharton management professor Katherine Klein, vice dean of the school’s Social Impact Initiative. “We are hearing those statements over and over again – ‘I am reckoning with what I did’ – and our first instinct may be to regard such statements as disingenuous. But, I suspect there’s a significant element of truth here. At least some of these men are coming to grips with how harmful their behavior has been. As human beings, we are very prone to rationalization, self-justification, and self-delusion – perhaps especially when we know, at some level, that we’re in the wrong. So, an important question is how do you interrupt that self-delusion and correct that behavior at the very start of the slippery slope – not decades after the fact?”

In order to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, “you need a culture that makes it clear that sexual harassment won’t be tolerated,” she says, “and at the same time, you need a culture that makes it psychologically safe for employees to express concerns, complaints and suggestions.

“Everything we know about organizational culture says the message has to come from the top and it has to be believable,” she continues. “Responding after the fact, after your company has ignored it — there are going to be real questions about where you were years ago when the complaints first emerged. So a clear response from the top that is perceived to be genuine, about how you want to lead and what you expect in a workplace, those statements are important – that this is not part of the culture, this is not part of our way of doing business, and the sense of what’s wrong here.”

According to Klein, while it’s obviously necessary to have a sexual harassment policy, it is not always easy to be clear about what constitutes sexual harassment. “There are gray areas where people are uncertain if a given behavior crosses the line,” she says. “So it’s important that people can and do feel safe enough and supported enough to speak up when they feel uncomfortable with someone’s behavior. We can all agree that repeated, unwanted sexual touching is harassment. But if someone pats you on the upper back when he or she says hello or gives you a compliment, is that harassment? If the recipient – the one whose back is getting patted – feels uncomfortable, I would hope he or she could bring that up to someone at work to explore and resolve the situation.”

A common characteristic of sexual harassment, she says, is that it tends to escalate. “When a man sexually harasses a woman, his behavior may become more egregious and aggressive over time. For example, several of the women who reported that Charlie Rose harassed them said that he began by putting his hand on their legs. This seemed to at least some of these women to be a test of how they would respond. If you have a workplace culture in which people are comfortable speaking up, where they can say, ‘Hey, this makes me feel uncomfortable,’ you may be able to prevent some of these behaviors.”

The Power Dynamic

What can companies do to make sure victims feel safe coming forward and that they aren’t further hurt by the subsequent fallout? “This is difficult, especially in small companies,” says Bellace. “Companies need to make statements – and follow up with actions – that say that anyone who feels they are being harassed or disrespected at work should speak to HR and that the company will endeavor to keep the matter as confidential as possible. But the company cannot promise confidentiality. After all, it must investigate the complaint, and in a small work group it will be obvious who is complaining about whom.”

“To whom should the employee complain when the supervisor is the problem and there is no HR office?”Janice Bellace

Policies on sexual harassment should be understood to cover bullying, whether it is sexual or not. “Many people would not use the term ‘sexual harassment’ to cover what is legally known as a hostile working environment,” Bellace says. “All they know is that lewd or derogatory comments or photos humiliate or embarrass them.”

The overwhelming majority of sexual harassment in the workplace takes the form of transgressions by men against women – but not all. One study that analyzed sexual harassment complaints filed with equal opportunity commissions in Australia over a six-month period found that 78% were female complaints against males. But women were accused of sexually harassing other women nearly 6% of the time, women harassing men in 5% of cases, and men accusing other men in 11% of cases.

The study points to the fact that power is often at the root of sexually harassing behavior. “The majority of complaints in all four groups were lodged against alleged harassers employed in a more senior position,” wrote Paula McDonald, professor of work and organization at Queensland University of Technology, with Sara Charlesworth in “Workplace Sexual Harassment at the Margins” published in Work, Employment and Society. “This was particularly noticeable in female to female complaints, where nine in 10 complaints were made by subordinates against supervisors. Consistent with existing research, in many of these complaints women performed as ‘honorary men,’ adopting sexualized banter to maintain authority and ‘fit in’ with the dominant male gender culture.”

One bright note in changing attitudes about gender roles in the U.S. workplace has recently emerged. Breaking a decades-long preference for male bosses, Americans are now indicating that they don’t feel partial to a man or a woman. Since the early 1980s, the majority of both male and female respondents to a Gallup poll have said they would rather have a male boss. But in an early November phone poll with a random sample of 1,028 U.S. adults age 18 and older, 55% said they had no preference, and those who did were evenly split among men and women. (The poll has not yet started to account for bosses or workers who don’t identify as either traditional gender.)

“Since the early 1980s, the preferences among both men and women for a male boss have each fallen by 50%,” said Gallup. “The abrupt shift since 2014 in the percentage of Americans preferring a male boss suggests that the public may be reacting to the seemingly endless stream of sexual harassment allegations against men in workplaces across many industries, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.”

Tip of the Iceberg

Hollywood and Capitol Hill are but a visible proxy for what has long gone on in many other workplaces. In fact, the visibility of recent accusations may belie the fact that among various major sectors, media and entertainment do not have the highest incidence of reported sexual harassment — by a wide margin. Hospitality and food service accounts for 14% of complaints, retail comes in at 13%, manufacturing at 12%, health care at 11%, administrative and support services 7%, professional, scientific and technical at 6%, finance and insurance at 4%, and arts and entertainment at well below 2%, according to a Center for American Progress analysis of figures collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2005 and 2015.

“Everything we know about organizational culture says the message has to come from the top and it has to be believable.”–Katherine Klein

Might employers start to weed out job applicants with a prior history of sexual harassment? Probably not, says Bellace. “This is very difficult in the U.S. in light of the fact that previous employers are extremely unlikely to say why a person left the firm,” she says. “Of course they can check criminal records in some jurisdictions and only after the position has been offered, but that is very unlikely to uncover anything relating to sexual harassment.”

The cost of sexual harassment to American businesses is difficult to calculate, though settlements can run into the millions or more. A California jury in 2012 awarded a physician assistant $168 million after a suit against Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento (though the award was later lowered, and then negotiated in a settlement). Awards or settlements in the millions or tens of millions are unusual, though not unheard of. The U.S. government has paid out about $17 million in the past two decades to compensate employees in the legislative branch of the federal government in settlements of various kinds, including those to victims of sexual harassment. And the cost to workers whose careers have been interrupted or hobbled by lodging complaints – or by simply leaving a job – goes uncalculated.

Despite the recent wave of consciousness raising, a heavy burden still falls upon any employee who faces harassment and wants to do something about it. Bellace’s advice: “Employees should keep a record of everything that disturbs them. Write it down, keep it on your home laptop – the date and time, and what happened. If there are offensive photos, use your smartphone and capture a picture or use the snipping tool to copy what you see on the screen. If need be, record a conversation. Often a [victim’s] complaint sounds vague or generalized and her complaint is dismissed. But if she can say that on specific date he said x, and a week later he sent an email that says y, and three days later he left a voicemail where he said z, that shows a pattern. The specificity of the complaint will indicate the seriousness and credibility of the complainant.”

Complaints, if possible, should either be made in writing or followed up in email, she says – for instance, an email to a human resources representative that says something along the lines of: “Although I found it difficult to bring myself to go to HR, I am glad that I spoke with you on Monday because I know it is the right thing to do. This behavior is demeaning and insulting and it must stop. I await hearing from you about the next steps you will take.”

HR should not simply sit back and wait for complaints, she says. “Many, many people are fearful that if they contact HR their career will be harmed. Many people see HR as the people who defend the company against lawsuits, not as the people who monitor the workplace and seek to enforce rules and norms of appropriate behavior. HR should convey to supervisors the need to be alert to inappropriate behavior and to nip it in the bud. There are many cases where supervisors were aware of improper jokes, lewd comments and inappropriately sexual comments on social media, and supervisors did nothing. That’s where HR can be proactive. HR needs to convey to supervisors that it is part of their job to make sure conduct at the workplace is appropriate.”

Bellace says that many women just want the behavior to stop. “They will complain and [then] say, ‘But I don’t want anything to happen to him,’ or ‘I don’t want anyone to know.’ This is an impossible request to accommodate. HR must explain why.”

“HR needs to convey to supervisors that it is part of their job to make sure conduct at the workplace is appropriate.”–Janice Bellace

Klein says that one hurdle is that men often have a different standard for what’s acceptable behavior. “Researchers have found that women are more likely than men to report that sexual comments and sexual contact constitute harassment,” Klein says.

But one study showed that when a perpetrator gains greater awareness of the effect on the victim, he might be less likely to engage in future harassing behavior. In that study, 119 male and female participants read either a neutral text or a description of a sexual harassment case written either from the female target’s or from the male perpetrator’s perspective. They were then asked to complete scales measuring their own levels of sexual harassment myth acceptance (SHMA), the use of bogus rationalizations to justify bad behavior. Male participants were asked to gauge their own likelihood to sexually harass (LSH). “The target’s perspective led to lower SHMA and to lower LSH than did the neutral text, whereas no such effect was found for the perpetrator’s perspective,” found Charlotte Diehl, Tina Glaser and Gerd Bohner of Bielefeld University in “Face the Consequences: Learning About Victim’s Suffering Reduces Sexual Harassment Myth Acceptance and Men’s Likelihood to Sexually Harass.”

Perhaps the current testimony by victims streaming through media will be similarly effective. Says Klein: “One of the videos I watched was of a woman who reported that Roy Moore harassed her when she was a teen. She cried throughout the video in describing what he did to her 40 years ago. It was very powerful to see how this memory still disturbs her. Perhaps seeing videos like this one will help people grasp how deeply disturbing and degrading is it to be sexually harassed. The scars don’t go away. They can last for decades.”

Japan dominates Robots

IFR report: Japan delivers 52% of global industrial robot supply

International Federation of Robotics reports sales within Japan reached a 10-year high, and Japan exported 115,000 industrial robots in 2016 valued at $2.7 billion..

By MMH Staff · November 29, 2017

According to a recent report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Japan is the world´s predominant industrial robot manufacturer.

The production capacity of the Japanese suppliers has reached 153,000 units in 2016 – the highest level ever recorded. Today, Japan´s manufacturers deliver 52% of the global supply. The results were published ahead of the International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Tokyo, November 29th – December 2nd 2017.

“Japan is a highly robotized country where even robots are assembled by robots,”said Joe Gemma, president of IFR. “The statistics show that automation strongly boosts exports and domestic investments as well; robot sales in Japan increased by 10% to about 39,000 units in 2016, reaching the highest level in the last ten years.”

Japan exported a total of nearly 115,000 industrial robots in 2016 with a value of $2.7 billion. This is by far the highest export volume for one year. The export rate increased from 72% to 75% (2011-2016). North America, China, the Republic of Korea and Europe were target export destinations. The Japanese imports of robots were extremely low, only about 1% of installations. Thus, foreign robot suppliers did not achieve a high sales volume in Japan. The home market has strongly recovered since the financial crisis in 2009 and reached 39,000 units, the highest level since 2006 (37,000 units).

The automotive industry is the largest destination market for industrial robots in Japan with a share of 36% of the total supply. Car manufacturers bought 48% more industrial robots than in 2015 (2016: 5,711 units). Japanese car suppliers are leading in the production of hybrid cars and will increase investments in automated driving technologies. The development of new materials which reduce weight and save energy will also foster investments in robot automation. However, the ongoing reduction of production capacities in Japan will impact domestic demand for robots. Investments abroad, on the other hand, will continue to increase. The Japanese car companies have been increasingly expanding production facilities overseas, particularly in China, as well as other Asian countries and in the United States and Mexico.

After the strong growth of robots in the electrical/electronics industry in 2015 (11,659 units), a decrease of 7% followed in 2016. However, the electrical/electronics industry has preferred to invest in production facilities abroad. Furthermore, continued investments in robots can be expected in this sector with the increasing demand for chips, displays, sensors, batteries and other technologies around electro mobility, and industry 4.0 (connected industries).

The two most important customer groups of industrial robots in Japan – automotive and electrical/electronics – had jointly, a share of 64% of the total supply in 2016. Robot sales to both sectors increased by 8% in 2016. In all other branches, as a whole, the market increased by 14%.

In Japan, the economy benefits from increased foreign demand, especially from China, the expansive monetary policy of the Bank of Japan and the weaker yen. Based on estimates provided by the Japanese Robot Association (JARA), the IFR expects an increase of around 10% in 2017 in domestic installations. Between 2018 and 2020 a further average annual increase of about 5% is likely, provided the economic recovery in Japan continues.

IFR Japan data overview
● 38,586 new robots installed (new record), 10% higher than in 2015 and a new peak
● CAGR 2011-2016: +7%
● Shares of total supply: Handling operations 36%, welding 22%, automotive industry 36%, electrical/electronics industry 28%