Robot density is a measurement that tracks the number of robots per 10,000 workers in an industry. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), robot density in manufacturing industries increased worldwide in 2016. This shows more countries are turning to automation to fill their manufacturing needs.
The average global robot density in 2016 was 74 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in manufacturing, the IFR reported. That is an increase from a robot density of 66 in 2015. By regions, the average robot density in Europe was 99 units, in the Americas 84 and in Asia 63 units.
The IFR reported the top 10 most automated countries, manufacturing-wise, in 2016 were: South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Italy, Belgium and Taiwan.
Japan was the only country in the top 10 that experienced a drop in robot density year-over-year. Here is a look at the top 10 countries from the IFR report.
1. Republic of Korea
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 631
The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, had a robot density that exceeded the global average by an eight-fold. Its 2016 robot density was 631, which was a stark increase from the 2015 number of 531.
The country has had the highest robot density in manufacturing since 2010. The growth is a result of increased adoption particularly in the electronics and automotive industries.
In 2016, South Korea’s trade ministry announced it would spend $450 million (500 billion won) in five years to grow its robotics footprint. The country is spending a big chunk of the money on corporate R&D centers.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 488
Singapore had the second highest robot density in manufacturing at 488 robots per 10,000 employees. According to the IFR, about 90 percent of Singapore’s robots are installed in the electronics industry.
Singapore’s robot density in 2015 was 398, which also was the second-highest in the world. The country, however, is using robotics for many other applications, including healthcare, construction and various service roles.
The Singapore robotics scene received a major boost in 2016 with the government’s announcement of an additional $450 million committed to the National Robotics Programme over three years.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 309
Germany is the most automated country in Europe, according to the IFR, with 309 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. That number is slightly up from the 301 units in 2016 that was good enough for fourth place.
Between 2018 and 2020, the IFR expects annual supply in Germany to grow by at least 5 percent on average per year due to the increasing demand for robots in the general industry and in automotive.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 303
Japan ranked fourth in the world in robot density in 2016. Japan is the world´s pre-dominant industrial robot manufacturer, producing a record 153,000 units in 2016. According to the IFR, Japan´s manufacturers deliver 52 percent of the global robotics supply.
Japan and Germany flipped positions in 2016. Japan was third last year at 305, so it experienced a small decline in robot density, according to the IFR.
We reached out to the IFR for more insight about the drop in Japan’s robot density. Here was the IFR’s response:
“In Japan, the robot stock has decreased in the automotive industry which is already highly automated. The shrinking car market in Japan does not need further expansion of capacities. The Japanese car companies have been increasingly expanding production facilities overseas, particularly in China, as well as other Asian countries and in the United States and Mexico. Furthermore, the automotive parts suppliers have been increasingly relocating to where their customers are.
“The Japanese robot manufacturers have been increasing their production capacities of robots considerably. The continued increase of demand for industrial robots will guarantee further growth in production of industrial robots in the coming years. Exports of robots are strongly gaining in importance for the Japanese robot suppliers despite yen’s recovering exchange rate. The domestic robot market is more or less a saturated market. However, replacements, new materials, new production processes and increase of capacities in the electronics industry will result in further considerable sales volumes for industrial robots in Japan.”
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 223
There’s quite a gap for the remainder of the top 10 companies. Sweden was fifth with 223 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. In 2016, that number was slightly less at 212.
According to the IFR, France is a country to watch. It ranked 18th in robot density with 132 units. The report said the French government wants to regain competitiveness in manufacturing. Robot installations are expected to increase in France by about 10 percent in 2017, the IFR said. Between 2018-2020, an average annual growth rate between 5 and 10 percent is expected.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 211
Denmark, a country with less than 6 million people, finished sixth with 211 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. This was also an increase from the 2015 number of 188.
Frank Tobe, founder of The Robot Report, in 2016 visited the robotics cluster in Odense, the third-largest city in Denmark. Tobe documented his trip and was impressed by the operation.
7. United States
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 189
Robot density in the US increased from 176 robots in 2015 to 189 robots in 2016. The main drivers of growth were the “Made in the US” and re-shoring initiatives.
The automotive industry, according to the IFR, is the US’ main customer of industrial robots with a 52 percent share of total robot sales in 2016. Robot sales in the US are expected to increase between 2017-2020 by at least 15 percent on average per year.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 185
Italy finished eighth with a robot density of 185. This was up from 160 in 2015.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 184
Belgium finished just behind Italy with a robot density of 184. Again, a nice increase from a robot density of 169 in 2015.
Industrial robots per 10K employees: 177
Taiwan closes out the top 10 with 177 robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. In 2015, Taiwan’s robot density was 155.
Companies with below-average robot density
Of the 44 countries tracked by the IFR report, 23 fell below the average robot density of 74. Most notably is the United Kingdom, which with a robot density of 71 was the only G7 country below the average. The G7 is a group that consists of the seven largest advanced economies in the world, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US. These countries represent more than 62 percent of the global net worth.
This shows the UK needs to modernize its manufacturing facilities to increase productivity. Despite its decision to leave the European Union, the IFR reported there are many suggested investment plans for capacity expansion and modernization.