The new World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report, presented by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), shows a record of 2.7m industrial robots operating in factories around the world; an increase of 12%. Sales of new robots remain high, with 373,000 units shipped globally in 2019. This is 12% less compared to 2018, but still the third highest sales volume ever recorded.
“The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history,” says Milton Guerry, President of IFR. “Driven by the success story of smart production and automation, this is a worldwide increase of about 85% within five years (2014-2019). The recent slowdown in sales by 12% reflects the difficult times the two main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, have experienced.
“In addition, the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot yet be fully assessed. The remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by adaption to the ´new normal´. Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year.
“China might be an exception, because the coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, and the country already started its recovery in the second quarter. Other economies report to be at the turning point right now, but it will take a few months until this translates into automation projects and robot demand. 2021 will see recovery, although it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level,” Guerry added.
Asia, Europe, and the Americas - overview
Asia remains the strongest market for industrial robots. Operational stock for the region´s largest adopter China rose by 21% and reached about 783,000 units in 2019. Japan ranks second with c. 355,000 units (up 12%) and the Republic of Korea with 319,000 (up 6%). India, meanwhile, amassed a record of c. 26,300 units (up 15%). Within five years, India has doubled the number of industrial robots operating in the country´s factories.
The share of newly installed robots in Asia was about two thirds of global supply. Sales of almost 140,500 new robots in China is below the record years of 2018 and 2017, but still more than double the numbers sold five years ago (2014: 57,000 units). Installations of all top three Asian markets slowed down – in China (down 9%), Japan (down 10%) and the Republic of Korea (down 26%).
In China, the broad majority of 71% of new robots was shipped in from foreign suppliers. Chinese manufacturers still mainly cater to the domestic market, where they gain increasing market shares. Foreign suppliers deliver c. 29% of their units to the automotive industry, while it is only c. 12% for Chinese suppliers. Therefore, foreign suppliers are more affected by the decline of business in the Chinese automotive industry than the domestic suppliers.
Europe reached an operational stock of 580,000 units in 2019 (up 7%). Germany remains the main user with an operational stock of c. 221,500 units, which is approximately three times the stock of Italy (74,400 units), five times the stock of France (42,000 units) and c 10 times the stock of the UK (21,700 units).
Robot sales show a different picture for the largest markets within the European Union: Approximately 20,500 robots were installed in Germany. This is below the record year of 2018 (down 23%), but on the same level as 2014-2016. Sales in France (up 15%), Italy (up 13%) and the Netherlands (up 8%) all increased. Robot density in the UK remains low, with new installations down by 16%. The newly installed 2,000 units in the UK are about 10 times less than the shipments in Germany (20,500 units), about five times less than in Italy (11,100 units) and about three times less than in France (6,700 units).
The USA is the largest adopter of industrial robots in the Americas, reaching a new operational stock record of c. 293.200 units (up 7%). Mexico is second with c. 40,300 units (up 11%), followed by Canada with c. 28,600 units (up 2%).
New installations in the USA slowed down by 17% in 2019, compared to the record year of 2018. Although, with 33,300 shipped units, sales remain on a very high level representing the second strongest result of all time. Most of the robots in the USA are imported from Japan, Korea, and Europe. While there are not many North American robot manufacturers, there are numerous important robot system integrators. Mexico ranks second in North America with c. 4,600 units (down 20%). However, sales in Canada are up one per cent to a record high of c. 3,600 shipped units.
South America’s number one operational stock is in Brazil with almost 15,300 units (up 8%). Despite this, sales slowed down by 17%, with about 1,800 installations. Nevertheless, it is still one of the best results ever, only beaten by record shipments in 2018.
Worldwide trend in human-robot collaboration
The adoption of human-robot collaboration is on the rise. The IFR reported that cobot installations grew by 11%. This dynamic sales performance contrasted with the overall trend with traditional industrial robots in 2019. As more and more suppliers offer collaborative robots and the range of applications becomes bigger, the market share reached 4.8% of the total of 373,000 industrial robots installed in 2019. Although this market is growing rapidly, it is still in its infancy.
Globally, COVID-19 has a strong impact on 2020, but also offers a chance for modernisation and digitalisation of production on the way to recovery. In the long run, the benefits of increasing robot installations remain the same: Rapid production and delivery of customised products at competitive prices are the main incentives. Automation enables manufacturers to keep production in developed economies, or re-shore it, without sacrificing cost efficiency. The range of industrial robots continues to expand, from traditional caged robots capable of handling all payloads quickly and precisely, to new collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans, fully integrated into workbenches.
The International Federation of Robotics is the voice of the global robotics industry. IFR represents national robot associations, academia, and manufacturers of industrial robot manufacturers from over twenty countries. IFR was founded in 1987 as a non-for-profit organisation: www.ifr.org
The study from which to compile this report were jointly prepared with IFR’s partner Fraunhofer IPA in Germany.