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Feature: iREX2023 Vol.2 – Interview with Kiyonori Inaba, Executive Managing Officer of FANUC

December 4, 2023

At the 2023 International Robot Exhibition (iREX2023), FANUC promoted the “ease of use” of its robots, which can be easily operated even by first-time users, and the “wide range of applications” that can be imagined for use in the field. “Although we utilize advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), our goal is to make robots easy to use,” said Kiyonori Inaba, Executive Managing Officer, General Manager Robot Business Division of the company. SEISANZAI Japan interviewed Mr. Inaba about his thoughts on automation. 

“Sensitivity” to automating will change 

Interview with Kiyonori Inaba, Executive Managing Officer of FANUC 

In August of this year, FANUC surpassed the one million unit mark in cumulative shipments of industrial robots. It took 40 years to reach the first 500,000 units, but the second half of the year only took 6 years. So much so that the robot adoption rate is accelerating. Although there have been short-term ups and downs, the demand for robots is expected to continue to grow in the medium to long term. 

I feel that the purpose of automation has shifted from quality stability and productivity improvement to “business continuity”. In Japan, the working-age population is predicted to decline from the current 74 million to 65 million by 2030, and the manufacturing and distribution industries will face a labor shortage of more than 1 million workers.  

People on the shop floor are probably starting to get a sense of this, but I think in a year or so there will be a big difference in how they feel. The labor shortage will no longer be felt as “we’re going to be short,” but as something that will affect business continuity. The number of companies working on automation is already increasing, but I am sure that in three years the “sensitivity” to automation will be at a completely different level. 

Meanwhile, the “leading role” will remain the same in the future: people. My hope is that FANUC can contribute to people working together with robots and machines to create valuable products for the world. To achieve this collaboration, we will continue to develop the necessary underlying technologies. Our goal is for robots to become one of the true infrastructures that support the manufacturing industry. For the future, I strongly believe that it is our important social role to contribute to solving social problems such as labor shortage through automation. 


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