Over the years, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has shown a steady increase of the use of robotic automation in the world. The IFR has shown that robot density especially in the manufacturing sector, between 2015 and 2016, that the world’s average robot density in manufacturing rose from 66 to 74 per 10,000 workers.
With technological advances in the robotics sector, robots have become a lot cheaper, more diverse and more widely available.
The IFR further reported the shipping of close to 381,000 industrial robots globally in 2017. This represents an increase of 30 percent, which translates to annual sales volume of industrial robots increased by 114 percent over the last five years, from 2013 to 2017, peaking to a value of US$16.2 billion in 2017.
The President of IFR attributes this increase to the divergent forms of robotic automation available for any sector in economic production.
“Industrial robots are a crucial part of the progress of manufacturing industry,” Junji Tsuda, President of IFR says, “Robots evolve with many cutting-edge technologies. They are vision recognition, skill learning, failure prediction utilizing AI, new concept of man-machine-collaboration plus easy programming and so on. They will help improve productivity of manufacturing and expand the field of robot application. The IFR outlook shows that in 2021 the annual number of robots supplied to factories around the world will reach about 630,000 units.”
Top industrial robotics markets
The major industrial robotics markets represent close to 73% of the total sales volume in 2017 with China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Germany as the leading consumers of the industrial robots for sale.
China is the largest market, with sales of close to 138,000 industrial robots between 2016 and 2017. This corresponds to 36% of the global sales. China’s sales volume was significantly higher than the sales volume of Europe and US put together; 112,400 units sold in these countries. However, the density of robotics reduced in 2016 despite China experiencing the most accelerated growth rate. The estimate is that robot density will increase to 150 by 2020. In addition, while China might not employ a high number of industrial robots, it is a major market for global robot sales.
Japan is the world’s largest industrial robot manufacturer. Japanese manufacturers delivered close to 56 percent of the global supply in 2017. The Japanese manufactured robots sold in North America, China, the Republic of Korea, and Europe making these the largest target export destinations. Locally, in Japan, robot sales increased by 18 percent to 45,566 units, which represents the second highest value ever observed in this country.
The Japanese robotics culture is well known. One of the most well known robots on the market is Pepper, a humanoid made by Japan’s SoftBank Robotics. This robotic innovation marks Japanese interest in automated machines. However, the Japanese high robot density in manufacturing is not only due to their fondness for robots, but also due to a chronic labor shortage.
Republic of Korea
It is on record that the highest robot density in the world is the manufacturing industry of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is more than 8 times the global average amount. With robot supplies at 41,373 units, the main driver of this demand was the electrical/electronics industry.
The Republic of Korea has maintained the number 1 position since 2010. With a density of 631 robots per 10,000 human workers, the country’s aptitude for robotics has remained high partly from a need to meet the healthcare requirements of an aging population. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be more than eight million South Koreans will be over 65 years old. Robots in this country have been are viewed as a major contributor to labor demands, receiving government support and funding to leading companies such as Hyundai Heavy Industries, SK Telecom and Robostar Co.
The United States of America is also in the trend to look for the efficiencies promised by robotic automation. Robot installations in the US continued to increase to a new peak in 2017 reaching 33,192 units. Since 2010, the main driver of the growth in all manufacturing industries was the ongoing trend to automate production, reduce waste, and improve bulk and quality in both domestic and global markets.
Germany has the fifth largest robot market in the world and the largest in Europe. Germany is not only an ardent consumer of robots but also a leading producer too. This is especially in the automotive industry, well known for quality and luxury. In 2017, the number of robots sold in Germany increased by 7% to 21,404 units compared to 20,074 units in 2016. The robotics acceptance is remarkably high in Germany, with research conducted by a team of German academics claiming that German workers exposed to robots are more likely to stay in their jobs.