The worldwide industrial robotics market reached a record $16.5 billion in sales in 2018, according to the International Federation of Robotics’ World Robotics Report. The IFR said 422,000 industrial robots were shipped around the world in 2018, a 6% increase from 2017’s previous record of 381,000 industrial robots.
However, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) said it expects shipments to decline in 2019 before bouncing back with 12% growth per year between 2020 and 2022.
“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industries – had a difficult year,” said IFR President Junji Tsuda. “The U.S.-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments.”
“But it is exciting that the mark of 400,000 robot installations per year has been passed for the first time,” Tsuda added. “The IFR´s longer-term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth – with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”
It’s important to note the IFR’s industrial robotics numbers for the first time include sales of collaborative robots.
“Despite a very strong media attention on cobots, the number of units installed is still very low, with a share of 3.24% only,” the IFR noted. “In 2018, less than 14,000 out of more than 422,000 industrial robots installed were cobots. The year before that, roughly 11,100 units were cobots. From 2017 to 2018, annual installations of cobots increased by 23%.”
Top 5 countries using industrial robots in 2018
The graphic above shows the top 15 industrial robotics markets worldwide for 2018. China remains the clear leader and has about three times more industrial robots than second-place Japan.
The order of the top 5 is quite similar to 2017, except the United States and the Republic of Korea switched places. Let’s break down the top five industrial robot markets of 2018, which represent 74% of global installations.
1. China — 154,000 industrial robots
China is responsible for 36% of total industrial robotics installations, with about 154,000 units. This is down 1% from 2017, but it’s still more than the Americas and Europe combined. The value of installations reached $5.4 billion, which is 21% higher than in 2017.
With the current economic climate, keep an eye on how China deals with foreign robot suppliers. China’s installations of foreign robot suppliers, including units produced in China by non-Chinese suppliers, decreased 7% from about 122,000 units in 2017 to 113,000 units last year. Installations from domestic Chinese industrial robot manufacturers increased 5% to 27% in 2018. This result is in line with China’s policy of promoting domestic manufacturers.
2. Japan — 55,000 industrial robots
Despite seeing numbers increase 21% in 2018, Japan is still a distant second with 55,000 industrial robots. That is the highest number for ever for the country. Japan is the world’s No. 1 industrial robot manufacturer and delivered 52% of the global supply in 2018.
3. U.S. — 40,300 industrial robots
Robot installations in theU.S. increased for the eighth year consecutive year. The 40,300 industrial robots, which is 22% higher than 2017, catapulted the US into third place and bumped South Korea down one slot.
The IFR said the driver of the growth in all manufacturing industries in the US since 2010 has been the ongoing trend to automate production to strengthen the U.S. industries in both domestic and global markets.
4. Republic of Korea — 38,000 industrial robots
South Korea dropped one spot in 2018 due to a 5% decline in installations of about 38,000. The IFR attributed the decline to a “tough year” for the electronics industry. Korea’s use of industrial robots has increased 12% on average per year since 2013.
5. Germany — 27,000 industrial robots
Germany is the fifth largest industrial robotics market in the world and No. 1 in Europe. In 2018, the number of units sold to Germany increased by 26% to almost 27,000 units – an all-time record. Installations are mainly driven by the automotive industry.
Industries driving growth
According to the IFR, the automotive industry remains the largest adopter of industrial robots, accounting for nearly 30% of sales in 2018. However, growth was just 2% in 2018 compared with a 21% increase in installations in 2017.
The IFR said 79% of the automotive industry’s industrial robots were installed in these five markets:
- China — 39,351
- Japan — 17,346
- Germany — 15,673
- U.S. — 15,246
- South Korea — 11,034
The electronics industry looked like it was on pace after 2017 to overtake the automotive industry as the top market. However, global demand for electronic devices and components substantially decreased in 2018, causing sales of industrial robots in the space to drop 14%, from about 122,000 units in 2017 to 105,000 units in 2018.
The IFR said the electronics industry has probably been most affected by the U.S.-China trade crisis.
The metal and machinery industry was the third largest user in 2018, accounting for 10% of total demand in 2018. Installations rose to about 43,500 units in 2018. Both producers of metal products (without automotive parts) and producers of industrial machinery, have bought substantial amounts of robots in recent years.
The Robot Report will be examining global robotics trends in upcoming articles, publications, and events.