The World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots
report published last week shows a record three million industrial robots operating in factories around the world – an increase of 10% over 2020.
Sales of new robots grew slightly at 0.5% despite the global pandemic, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020. This trend was dominated by the positive market developments in China, compensating for contractions in other markets. This is the third most successful year ever for the robotics industry, behind only 2018 and 2017.
Milton Guerry, president of the International Federation of Robotics
, said: “The economies in North America, Asia and Europe did not experience their Covid-19 low point at the same time; order intake and production in the Chinese manufacturing industry began surging in the second quarter of 2020, the North American economy started to recover in the second half of 2020, while Europe followed suit a little later.”
He continued: “Global robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow by 13% to 435,000 units in 2021, thus exceeding the record level achieved in 2018. Installations in North America are expected to increase by 17% to almost 43,000 units and in Europe by 8% to almost 73,000 units. Robot installations in Asia are expected to exceed the 300,000 unit mark and add 15% to the previous year’s result. Almost all Southeast Asian markets are expected to grow by double-digit rates in 2021.”
Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots. 71% of all newly installed robots in 2020 were installed in Asia (2019: 67%). Installations for the region´s largest adopter China grew strongly by 20% with 168,400 units shipped. This is the highest value ever recorded for a single country. The operational stock reached 943,223 units (+21%). The 1 million-unit mark will be broken in 2021. This high growth rate indicates the rapid speed of robotisation in China.
In the UK, industrial robot installations were up by 8% to 2,205 units. The automotive industry rose by 16% to 875 units — representing 40% of the installation. The food and beverage industry almost doubled their installations from 155 units in 2019 to 304 units in 2020 (+96%). The food and beverage industry had a high share of foreign workers, often from Eastern Europe, is facing a massive labour shortage.
With continued Covid-19-related travel restrictions as one reason and Brexit another, the demand for robots in the UK is expected to grow strongly at two-digit percentage rates in 2021 and 2022. There are currently 2,205 units installed in the UK, around 10-times less than Germany (22,302 units), about four-times less than in Italy (8,525 units) and less than half the number in France (5,368 units).