Global robotics sales set new record

Study shows double-digit growth in numerous markets; one of five robots sold went to China.
By Modern Materials Handling Staff
June 23, 2014 - MMH Editorial

In 2013, about 179,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide, again an all-time high and 12% more than in 2012, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

IFR president Arturo Baroncelli announced the preliminary results of IFR’s world robot statistics at AUTOMATICA in Munich. “Incoming orders in the first four months of 2014 increased remarkably and requests from all customer industries are on the rise,” he said. “Therefore, we expect that in 2014 growth of unit sales will continue with the same pace like in 2013.”

Robot sales reached record levels in Asia/Australia, in the Americas and in Africa. Almost 100,000 new robots were installed in 2013 in Asia/Australia, 18% more than in 2012.

The European market increased by 5% to more than 43,000 units almost reaching the all-time-high of 2011. Robot supplies to the Americas continued to increase by 8% to more than 30,000 units. More than 700 industrial robots were sold in Africa, 87% more than in 2012.

China biggest and fastest growing robot market
China is by far the biggest robot market in the world regarding annual sales and it is also the fasted growing market worldwide. For the first time ever, the sales figures of Chinese robot suppliers are included in the IFR statistics survey. Almost 37,000 industrial robots were sold in 2013 in China. Of them, Chinese robot suppliers installed about 9,000 units according to information of the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). Sales volume was almost three times higher than in 2012. Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by 20% in China. Between 2008 and 2013, total supply of industrial robots increased by about 36% per year on average. In 2013, every fifth robot sold in the world was installed in China.

Japan, USA, Republic of Korea and Germany represent 50% of the global robot market
Japan was the second largest market regarding annual sales, but it still has, by far, the highest number of industrial robots in operation, more than 300,000 units. It is the most automated country in the world. Japan is the predominant robot manufacturing country. More than half of the global robot supply of 2013 was produced by Japanese companies. In 2013, sales of industrial robots decreased by 9% to about 26,000 units due to reduced investments of the automotive and the electronics industries in Japan. However, exports of Japanese robots increased.

Robot installations in the United States continued to increase by 6% to the peak level of almost 24,000 units. Between 2008 and 2013, annual sales in the United Sates increased by 12% on average per year. Driver of this growth was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, bringing back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas.

In 2013, Robot sales to the Republic of Korea increased by 10% to more than 21,000 units due to increased investments of the automotive industry. The electronics industry which is the main customer of industrial robots in Korea, reduced its robot orders.

Robot sales to the German market were 4% higher in 2013 compared to 2012 and reached more than 18,000 units, the second highest level ever recorded. The automotive industry was again the driver for the growth. Between 2008 and 2013, robot sales to Germany increased by 4% on average.

These four markets represent 50% of the sales volume in 2013.

There was a considerable increase of robot installations in other Asian markets especially in Taiwan (Province of China), India and Indonesia. Also, important European markets such as Italy and Spain started to recover. Robot installations in Central and Eastern European countries as well as in Mexico and Canada continued to increase considerably. The robot market in Brazil lagged behind expectations.

Automotive and metal industries were the main drivers of the growth
The automotive industry increased robot investments continuously and considerably between 2010 and 2013, by 22% on average per year. The main countries involved were China, Germany and the United States. In 2013, robot sales to the automotive industry increased by 5%. Also the metal and machinery industry had an average annual growth rate of 22% in the same period. In 2013, robot sales to this industry were up by 17%. The food industry as well as the pharmaceutical industry increased robot investments substantially in 2013.  The electrical/electronics industry - which had reached a peak level in 2013 – increased robot orders by 9% in 2014.

The trend towards automation fuels further growth
The main drivers of automation are:
1. Energy-efficiency and new materials, e.g. carbon-composites, requiring new productions.
2. Global competiveness requiring increased productivity and higher quality.
3. Growing consumer markets requiring expansion of production capacities.
4. Decreasing life-cycles of products and increasing variety of products requiring flexible automation.
5. Robots improving the quality of work by taking over dangerous, tedious and dirty jobs that are not possible or safe for humans to perform.

Easy to use robots - challenge and chance to capture new applications and customers
Easy to use and easy to integrate robots will open up a wide range of new customers and new applications for robots. A main example for this category of robot use is the human-machine-collaboration. The robots working together with the worker in the factory or also in non-manufacturing sectors are capable of understanding human-like instructions (by voice, gesture, graphics) and have modular plug-and-produce components. This enables people without experience in using robots to program and integrate a robot in the process. But a major challenge of this application is safety, because the robot is working close to the worker without fence. Lightweight robots with integrated vision guidance and better sensor integration that are more adaptable to their environment have been developed and will still be improved. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is working on a Technical Specification for collaboration of humans and industrial robots in order to provide reliable safety requirements. The break-through of the human-machine collaboration is just beginning.

The final results of the global statistics on industrial robots and on service robots will be published in September 2014 in the studies: World Robotics 2014 Industrial Robots and World Robotics 2014 Service Robots.



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Article Topics

News · Automation · Voice · Manufacturing · Robotics · Safety · IFR · All topics

About the Author

Josh Bond, Associate Editor
Josh Bond is an associate editor to Modern. Josh was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and contributing editor, has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce. Contact Josh Bond

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