World robot utilisation up 12%: IFR
The latest annual report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) — the World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report — shows a record of 2.7 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world, representing an increase of 12%. Sales of new robots remain on a high level 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,” said Milton Guerry, President of the 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 to that, the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed as yet. 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,” he continued. “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, but it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level.”
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 about 355,000 units — up 12%. A runner-up is India with a new record of about 26,300 units — increased by 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.
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.
Europe reached an operational stock of 580,000 units in 2019 — plus 7%. Germany remains the main user with an operational stock of about 221,500 units — this is about three times the stock of Italy (74,400 units), five times the stock of France (42,000 units) and about 10 times the stock of the UK (21,700 units).
The USA is the largest industrial robot user in the Americas, reaching a new operational stock record of about 293,200 units — up 7%. Mexico comes second with 40,300 units, which is a plus of 11%, followed by Canada with about 28,600 units — plus 2%.
South America’s number one operational stock is in Brazil, with almost 15,300 units — plus 8%.
Worldwide trend in human–robot collaboration
The adoption of human–robot collaboration is on the rise. The IFR saw cobot installations grow by 11%. This dynamic sales performance was in contrast to 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 had 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 reshore 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.
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