Brazil: the next big automation powerhouse?

By Bruno Zabeu, Sales Development Manager, Universal Robots

Brazil, one of the largest, most populous and diverse countries in the world, is also a country of big differences. This is also the case when it comes to its manufacturing industry and level of automation. In 2023 it is possible to find factories with state-of-the-art modern solutions right next door to a factory with old production lines from the 1970´s.

And when looking at the statistics, Brazil is currently a bit behind on robot installations compared to its size. Although Brazil has the 12th largest GDP in the world, its global ranking remains at a modest 20th position when it comes to the number of robot installations, according to the International Federation of Robotics. And in 2021, when robot installations skyrocketed with a growth rate of 31% year-on-year, the growth in Brazil was a mere 7%.

However, this shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the industrial automation transformation is well underway in Brazil and that it’s a country with immense automation potential.

 The automotive industry is paving the road

The automotive industry is paving the road

Like in many other countries, the automotive industry is Brazil’s first-mover when it comes to industrial robots. The industry is by far the biggest adaptor with 47 % of all operational robots in Brazil being deployed in this segment.

This trend of the automotive industry spearheading the industrial automation is very familiar as we have seen the same pattern in some of the world’s leading robot countries like China, Japan, United States and Germany and in other major economies like India. In general, and not just within automation, this is where Brazilian businesses are looking for inspiration. And just as we have seen in these countries, Brazil is now starting to see more collaborative robots (cobots) being used in other segments than automotive.

Wanted: Productivity, quality and safety

Some of these upcoming segments are food and beverage, metalworking, pharma, and electronics.

The electronic industry is growing especially fast in Brazil where the main driver for automation is the ambition to increase productivity in a high-demand sector as well as securing quality. Quality is also the main driver in the pharmaceutical sector and therefore cobots are chosen as they have extremely high precision.

Another area where cobots and automation can make a huge difference in Brazil is worker safety. According to data from the Brazilian Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Observatory, the accidents and deaths related to the formal labor market in Brazil grew on average by 30% in 2021 compared to 2020, showing there is an evident need for innovations that can contribute to improving the safety of workers taking on hazardous tasks.

This can be done by automating e.g. palletizing, welding or machine tending tasks, minimizing the danger of accidents and injuries. But in Brazil we’re also seeing robots being used in untraditional sectors such as steel mills and industries related to mining in order to better the safety of operators.  An example of this is steel plant company USIMINAS who deployed a UR10eto apply paint to metallic coils, obtaining excellent results. The factory was able to achieve annual paint savings of R$130,000.00. Currently, the cobot has marked over 100,000 coils, which has increased safety in the workspace as workers no longer have to worry about freehand marking on heavy parts. In fact, this solution was so successful it was patented.

In all of these cases, the purpose of automating is to prevent people from doing dirty and dangerous jobs that people simply shouldn’t be doing when we have robot technology that can easily take over and safeguard the workers.

Robot education is key

Another important step on Brazil’s automation journey is education and the Brazilian government has launched several initiatives to include robotics teaching in schools and educational institutions.
Since 2018, Universal Robots has sold over 200 UR3e to SENAI (the National Industrial Training Service) which has over 2 million students and professionals enrolled. And to reach the young generations SESI (Social Service of Industry) have purchased more than 20 cobots to be used in schools in Minas Gerais State for students between the age of 7 to 17.

This education of not only the current workforce but also future generations is crucial if Brazil is to evolve into a major player on the global robotics scene. The first steps have been taken and cobots are already helping Brazilian businesses to grow and improve conditions for workers. With a population of more than 200 million and the leading economy in South America, Brazil has got all the ingredients to become an automation powerhouse with all the benefits it will bring.

Facts on industrial automation in Brazil

  • • The automotive industry is by far the biggest adopter of industrial robots with 47% of operational robots and 22% of new installations in 2021 (Source: IFR World Robotics 2022)
  • • Handling operations is the most popular application for industrial robots with 49% of operational robots and 59% of new installations in 2021 (Source: IFR World Robotics 2022)
  • • The global average robot density is 141 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. Brazilian manufacturing has 16 robots per 10,000 employees while the automotive industry has 148 robots per 10,000 employees (Source: IFR World Robotics 2022)
  • • A future potential driver of automation is labor shortages caused by population decrease. In the next 30 years, Brazil’s potential work force of people aged 15-64 will decrease by 8.2 million (Source: UN World Population Prospects)
Universal Robots

We believe that collaborative robotic technology can be used to benefit all aspects of task-based businesses – no matter what their size.

We believe that the latest collaborative robot technology should be available to all businesses. The nominal investment cost is quickly recovered as our robotic arms have an average payback period of just six months.

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