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Industrial Robotics Market

Industrial Robots - Facts & Figures:

In 2017, robot sales increased by 30% to 381,335 units, a new peak for the fifth year in a row. The main drivers of this exceptional growth in 2017 were the metal industry (+55%) and electrical/electronics industry (+33%). Robot sales in the automotive industry increased by 22% and remained still the major customer of industrial robots with a share of 33% of the total supply in 2017. The electrical/electronics industry has been catching up, especially since 2015. In 2017, it reached almost the same share of total supply (32%). The electrical/electronics industry became the most important customer in almost all major Asian markets, e.g. China, Japan, Republic of Korea, already in 2016.

Between 2012 and 2017, the average robot sales increase was at 19% per year (CAGR) - the strongest number of robot installations ever. And, the average annual supply doubled to about 236,000 units compared to the average annual supply between 2005 and 2008. In the past three years (2015-2017) the average annual increase was about 310,000 units. This is a clear indication of the tremendous, accelerating rise in demand for industrial robots worldwide.

Continued considerable increase in all regions

Asia1 is still the world's strongest growth market. With a total of about 261,800 units sold in 2017, a rise of 37% more than the global sales volume of 2015 (253,300) was reached in this region. This was the highest sales level ever recorded for the fifth year in a row. Between 2012 and 2017, robot installations rose by an average annual rate of 25%. Industrial robot sales in the second largest market, Europe, increased by 18% to almost 66,300 units (a new peak, for the fith year in a row) and an annual average increase rate of 10% between 2012 and 2017, like in the Americas. About 46,100 industrial robots were shipped to the Americas, 12% more than in 2016, establishing a new peak for the sixth year in a row.

73% of the global robot sales in five countries

There are five major markets representing 73% of the total global sales volume in 2017: China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States and Germany. Since 2013 China has been the biggest robot market in the world with a continued dynamic growth.

China has significantly expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 36% of the total supply in 2017 (30% in 2016). About 137,900 industrial robots were sold to China in 2017, 59% more than in 2016. This was considerably more than the total sales volume of Europe and the Americas together (112,400 units). About 34,700 units of robots were sold by Chinese robot manufacturers in China according to the information from the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). Their sales volume was about 29% higher than in 2016 (27,000 units). Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by 72% to 103,200 units, including robots produced locally by the international robot suppliers in China. This is the first time that the foreign robot suppliers have a higher growth rate than the local ones. The market share of the Chinese robot suppliers decreased from 31% in 2016 to 25% in 2017.

In 2017, robot sales in Japan increased by 18% to 45,566 units, representing the second highest value ever observed for this country. Only in the year 2000 a higher value (46,986 units) was recorded. Main driver of the growth in 2017 was the electrical/electronics industry, while the automotive industry remained at previous year’s level. Between 2012 and 2017, robot sales increased by 10% on average per year (CAGR).  

Robot supplies in the Republic of Korea decreased by 4% to 39,732 units in 2017. The year before, industrial robot installations peaked at 41,373 units. The main driver of this development is the electrical/electronics industry that reduced robot installations by 18% in 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, robot sales increased by 15% on average per year (CAGR) in the Republic of Korea.

Robot installations in the United States continued to increase to a new peak in 2017 – for the seventh year in row - (33,192 units), 6% higher than in 2016. Since 2010, the driver of the growth in all manufacturing industries in the U.S. has been the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen the US-industries in both domestic and global markets. 

Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world. In 2017, the number of robots sold increased by 7% to 21,404 units - a new peak - compared to 2016 (20,074 units). Between 2014 and 2016, annual sales of industrial robots stagnated at around 20,000 units.

Main driver of the growth: electrical/electronics industry

Since 2010, the automotive industry –the most important customer of industrial robots– considerably increased investments in industrial robots worldwide. After two years of single-digit growth rates, robot sales increased in 2017 by 22% to a new peak of almost 125,700 units. This is 33% of the total supply. Between 2012 and 2017, robot sales to the automotive industry increased by 14% on average per year (CAGR). After the economic crisis in 2008/2009, car manufacturers started to restructure their businesses. Since 2010, investments in new production capacities in the emerging markets as well as investments in production modernization in major car producing countries have led to a rising number of robot installations. Using new materials, developing energy efficient drive systems, as well as high competition in all major car markets pushed for investments despite the existing overcapacities.

Robot sales to the electrical/electronics industry (including computers and equipment, radio, TV and communication devices, medical equipment, precision and optical instruments) have been significantly up since 2013 and are almost at the same level as the automotive industry. In 2017, sales increased by 33% to a new peak of 121,300 units, accounting for a share of 32% of the total supply in 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, the average annual growth rate was 30%. The rising demand for electronic products and new products, the need to automate production and the increasing need for batteries, chips and displays, were driving factors behind the boost in sales. The production facilities belonging to this industry are mainly located in Asian countries.

The rubber and plastics industry has continuously increased the number of robot installations since 2009 from about 5,800 units to the peak value of 17,300 units in 2015. After a setback in 2016 (16,000 units), sales crossed the 17,000-unit mark again in 2017. The industry’s share of the total supply in 2017 was below 5%. Between 2012 and 2017, sales were up by 8% on average per year. Robot sales to the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry substantially increased to a new peak of 4,184 units, 24% more than in 2016. This was mainly the result of considerable sales increase in China. Despite the high degree of automation in this industry, the number of industrial robot installations has remained relatively low for many years. The food and beverage industry increased robot orders in 2017 by 19% to over 9,700 units, but this is still less than 3% of the total supply. Sales continuously increased between 2010 and 2014 but decreased in 2015. The annual average growth rate between 2012 and 2017 was 15%. In 2017, sales to the metal and machinery industry increased by 55% to a new peak value of 44,536 units. Sales strongly increased in all subcategories (basic metals, metal products, industrial machinery). Between 2012 and 2017, the average annual growth rate was 26%.

Sales to all industries, except for automotive and electrical/electronics, increased by 32% in 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, the average growth rate per year was 18%. This suggests that robot suppliers offer more and more robotics solutions that are not only attractive for the automotive and electrical/electronics industries, but also for other customers in the manufacturing industry.

Continued, considerable increase of worldwide operational stock

In 2017 the total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots significantly increased by 15% to 2,097,500 units. Since 2012, the stock has been increasing considerably by 11% on average per year.

Value of the global market was up to US$ 16.2 billion

In 2017, sales value increased by 21% to a new peak at US$16.2 billion. It should be noted that the figures cited above generally do not include the cost of software, peripherals and systems engineering. Including these costs might result in the actual robotic systems’ market value to be about three times as high. The worldwide market value for robot systems in 2017 is therefore estimated to be at US$48 billion.

Robot Density unveils high potential in many countries

World Robotics Industrial Robots defines robot density as the number of multipurpose industrial robots in operation per 10,000 persons employed. It distinguishes the manufacturing industry, the automotive industry as defined by ISIC revision 4:10-33 and the general industry (manufacturing industry without automotive).

In 2017, the average robot density in the manufacturing industry was 85 robots per 10,000 employees. Europe is the region with the highest robot density with an average value of 106 units. In the Americas, the value is 91 units and in Asia/Australia it is 75.

The countries with the highest robot densities by far are the Republic of Korea (710 robots per 10,000 employees) and Singapore (658 robots). The Republic of Korea has had by far the highest robot density in the manufacturing industry since 2010. The rate has been increasing from 311 units in 2010 due to continued installation of a large volume of robots since 2010, particularly in the electrical/electronics industry and in the automotive industry. Singapore follows due to a very low number of employees in the manufacturing industry - some 240,000 employees according to ILO. About 84% of the robots in Singapore are installed in the electronics industry. 

In 2009, China had 11 units installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing sector, so its density increased almost by factor 10 to 97 units per 10,000 employees. Europe is the region with the highest robot density with an average value of 106 units. In the Americas, the value is 91 units and in Asia/Australia it is 75 units. The level of automation is generally much higher in the automotive industry than in all other sectors. In the Republic of Korea, 2,435 industrial robots per 10,000 employees were in operation in 2017. That is twice the value of 2010 (1,239) and by far the highest level ever reached. Since 2014, a significant number of industrial robots have been sold to the automotive industry in the Republic of Korea. Huge projects aimed at manufacturing batteries for hybrid and electro cars might be the reason for this high increase in robot density.

Canada’s robot density increased to 1,354 units per 10,000 employees in the automotive industry in 2017. Note that more precise employment data became available and robot densities were revised for this issue of World Robotics Industrial Robots. The United States (1,200), Germany (1,162), Japan (1,158) and France (1,156) also have high robot densities in the automotive industry. Austria (1,083) and Sloveniaå (1,075) now join the list of countries that exceed the mark of 1,000 robots per 10,000 employees in 2017. Robot densities in Spain (990), Thailand (974) and Taiwan (940) are also at a high level.

The robot density in the general industry (all industries excluding automotive) is still comparatively low. However, countries with an important electronics industry have a higher rate. The Republic of Korea is on top with 533 robots installed per 10,000 employees. It is followed by Japan with 225 robots, Germany with 191 and Sweden with 180 units. Germany and Sweden do not have any important production sites regarding the electronics industry. The comparatively high rate in both countries is due to a more diversified distribution of industrial robots in all industries. The increasing automation in the production of electronic devices will push robot installations within the related production hubs, particularly in Asian countries. Taiwan ranks fifth with 164 units, Italy follows with 160 units. The United States and Austria share seventh place with 117 units. A number of other European countries, China and Canada have densities between 30 and 90. Most of the emerging robot markets have a robot density below 30. Overall, in all surveyed countries, the potential for robot installations in the general industry is tremendous. Even in the Republic of Korea, the robot density in the general industry is just about a fifth of the density in the automotive industry. The potential for robot installations is also high in the automotive industry in the emerging markets and in some traditional markets. Moreover, continued necessary modernization and retooling also guarantee further robot investments in already highly automated countries. Some shifts between countries may occur if production is relocated abroad, but this will hardly affect overall robot investments.

The above information is based on the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) report.

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