curt bergmann, dipl. ing.,
project manager automotive and industrial solutions, kuka systems

“ An increasing variety of models, flexible manufacturing and complex assembly processes are not exclusively a car making phenomenon. We also migrate our in­novative solutions and specialized exper­tise to other sectors, day after day.”

kuka systems

kuka Systems GmbH, a plant engineering and construction company mainly geared toward the automotive industry, also saw its business volume decline due to the economic crisis. The key business figures for 2009 were thus down sharply in comparison to the year prior. The division restructured its business and a new management team was installed. Accelerated expansion of general industry activities will proceed in parallel.

robot-based automation solutions

further information

kuka Systems offers its customers in the automotive industry and other sectors (general industry) robot-based automation solutions. As general contractor, the division designs and builds customized production lines for the automotive industry. In general industry, the division serves related sectors such as aircraft and rail vehicle manufacturing, solar and agricultural machinery industries. The division has core competencies in processes such as welding, gluing, sealing, converting, assembling, testing and handling of metals, glass and other materials. kuka Systems’ market share is almost 20 percent, making it number one worldwide in car body production for the automotive industry.

The division has three regional engineering centers: in Augsburg for Germany and Europe, in greater Detroit, Michigan, for the North American business and in Shanghai / China, for the Asian market. 24 subsidiaries support these centers and independently process small orders.

Spot welding in automotive.

business performance tracks negative market developments

International automotive markets were particularly hard hit by the fallout from the global economic crisis. As a result of their significantly declining sales numbers and profits, carmakers scaled back their capital spending. This led to significant price pressure and stiff competition among suppliers. kuka Systems was unable to escape this difficult market situation. Orders received were thus down 28 percent, declining from € 854.9 million in 2008 to € 615.4 million in 2009. kuka Systems experienced strong declines, especially in the major European industrial regions (excluding Germany) and in North America.

Lower orders received led to a significant drop of 27.7 percent in the division’s sales revenues. They went from € 837.5 million in 2008 to € 605.5 million in 2009. Overall, order backlog as of December 31 rose € 9.9 million, from € 450.3 million in 2008 to € 460.2 million in 2009. The order backlog notionally secures capacity utilization for 6.5 months, unchanged from the previous year.

Operating result (ebit) only slightly negative excluding one-time charges.

Declining sales revenues and lower capacity utilization drove the Systems division’s operating result (ebit) down from € 26.8 million in 2008 to € – 29.1 million in 2009. These figures include one-time expenditures of € 23.8 million, primarily at foreign subsidiaries and for redundancy payments. Without one-time charges of € 23.8 million, the division’s operating result (ebit) was € – 5.3 million, also only slightly negative. The workforce shrank 6.5 percent over the course of the year. It went from 3,781 as of December 31, 2008 to 3,534 on December 31, 2009.

locations in france sold or closed

The French business was reorganized as a result of the difficult business situation and kuka Systems France’s Montigny near Paris location was closed. In total, 144 employees were affected by these steps. kuka has been able to sell the Tours location, which employed eighty people, to a strategic investor. A severance package was negotiated with the remaining employees in greater Paris. Since then, French customers are being served by French employees from Germany.

Laser welding in automotive.

division’s management team replaced

On November 16, 2009, a new management team took over the Systems division. Lawrence A. Drake, who has headed up the division’s North American business for about ten years, became the ceo of kuka Systems GmbH in Augsburg. Lutz Berneke stayed on as cfo of kuka Systems GmbH. Three other former executives left the executive management team, but remained associated with the company in key managerial functions.

weak automotive business

The automotive industry’s worldwide investments in car body manufacturing were down about 15 percent in comparison to the prior year’s relatively high level. In Europe, major orders were often split into smaller individual projects and orders were increasingly placed to revamp existing production lines. The North American market is currently in a consolidation phase after two of the big three domestic carmakers underwent bankruptcy proceedings. In contrast, the Asian markets, particularly China, continued to grow.

systems division – key figures

(in € millions)



Change in %

Orders received



– 28.0

Sales revenues



– 27.7

Operating result (ebit)


– 29.1

Operating result (ebit) excluding special expenditures


– 5.3

% of sales


– 4.8

% of capital employed (roce)


– 14.7

Capital employed




Employees (Dec. 31)



– 6.5

Systems offers its customers a comprehensive portfolio of engineering services and products that cover the key segments of the carmaking process: product development, tool making, car body manufacturing, assembly lines and test stands, and final assembly systems. The company’s core competence is in the construction of highly flexible manufacturing systems that can be used to produce several models or variants of a vehicle model.

steady demand for jeep wrangler

Jeep Wrangler sales continue to be satisfactory.

kuka Systems operates a Jeep Wrangler car body manufacturing facility at Chrysler’s factory site in Toledo, Ohio / usa. Despite the 21 percent slump in the overall market, sales of this model continue to be satisfactory and were down only slightly in comparison to last year (– 3 percent). The manufacturing facilities were shut down in May and June of 2009 in conjunction with Chrysler’s bankruptcy proceedings. However, the order backlog had been eliminated by the end of the year. The new owner fiat will continue to build the Jeep Wrangler in the foreseeable future.

press tool manufacturing in good shape

kuka Systems’ press tool manufacturing unit benefited from the capacity adjustments that had already been made over the past number of years. The unit builds cutting and forming tools for producing large volumes of sheet metal parts. The manufacturing facilities are located in Schwarzenberg / Erzgebirge, and Dubnica / Slovakia. The machine tool business unit supplies products to carmakers in Germany and the European Union, and increasingly also to customers in India and China.

assembly and test equipment restructured

On February 25, 2009, the division’s assembly and test equipment business unit was reorganized. lsw Maschinenfabrik GmbH, Bremen, was merged with kuka Systems GmbH, Augsburg. The new Assembly & Test Group has business locations in Bremen and greater Detroit. The portfolio, comprised of automated assembly lines and test stands for engines and transmissions, can now be sold worldwide more efficiently.

major orders strengthen general industry expansion

Expertise systematically applied to penetrating and expanding into technologically related markets.

For several years, kuka Systems has been continuously expanding its systems business by targeting sectors outside the automotive industry. The division applies its outstanding automotive manufacturing expertise and process engineering knowledge to systematically establish and expand into markets with related processes. The target markets include the aircraft and rail vehicle manufacturing industries, the solar industry and the agricultural machinery sector.

kuka Systems supplies the solar industry with complete systems for manufacturing solar modules. kuka has already designed and started up several highly automated manufacturing systems in Germany and abroad over the past number of years. The industry is particularly receptive to kuka’s integration expertise and the many years of experience the company has in serial manufacturing and its strict specifications regarding system uptime, output and product quality.

In May 2009, kuka Systems received a major order from Solarwatt ag for a highly automated crystal solar module manufacturing system. The order includes systems that use a number of automated kuka processes: depalletizing glass, applying film, laying up and testing strings, cross-tie soldering, trimming, taping, framing, sorting and packaging, including in-line quality control. In total, 29 kuka robots are used. The system has a production capacity of 150 mwp and will be started up during the first half of 2010.

collaboration with alema inc.

International aircraft manufacturing is another key market kuka Systems is targeting as it expands its general industry business. In October 2009, kuka Systems North America signed a cooperation agreement with alema Automation Inc., usa, a leading manufacturer of end effectors (tools attached to the end of a robotic arm) for use in aircraft manufacturing. The company has over 15 years’ experience developing and manufacturing robotic end effectors for either metal or cfrp component drilling, riveting and fastening applications. Together with alema, kuka Systems can now offer the North American aircraft industry completely automated assembly systems.

Jet nozzle welding for aerospace industry.

In May 2009, aircraftmaker Airbus placed a frame contract with kuka Systems for the supply of logistics equipment to assemble the A 350. The order extends to 2015 and includes conveying equipment plus hoisting and assembly systems, among other things for the upper and lower wing shell. The systems will be used at the Airbus factories in Stade / Germany in Nantes / France, and Illescas / Spain. Airbus had already ordered forty-one omnimove platforms in December 2008, which are also used in A 350 assembly.

Also in May 2009, kuka Systems landed a major North American aviation industry contract: Northrop Grumman Corp. ordered the first completely integrated, automated aircraft assembly line. In total, it has 78 tool spaces and over 500 tools for assembling the midsection of the F-35 fighter plane fuselage. The manufacturer will be able to produce one aircraft per day and will have spent over usd 100 million by 2014. The completely automated assembly line considerably speeds up the process and aircraft throughput and substantially improves quality.

kuka invests in chinese growth market

kuka well positioned for above average growth in Chinese market.

China was the only major industrial nation to enjoy continued strong growth last year, despite the worldwide economic crisis. Thanks to government incentives, car sales in particular rose steeply compared to last year and should continue to grow in the next few years. But key general industry target markets have also developed very satisfactorily in China over the past number of years. The country is now the world’s largest manufacturer of solar modules and third-largest aircraft manufacturer.

kuka is well positioned for the above average growth expected in the Chinese market in the next few years. After several years of rapid growth, kuka Shanghai moved into new, significantly larger premises in January 2009. The factory floor space nearly doubled. The Robotics division’s new distribution center for Asia is also located at the new site. kuka China has 150 employees who build, sell and service products and systems for the Systems and Robotics divisions in this growth market.