23 Jul 2024


Industrial robot installations set to soar by 14% in 2016

More than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world by 2019, taking the total number to 2.6 million, according to the latest forecast from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

During 2016, the IFR expects the number of industrial robots installed worldwide to grow by 290,000 (14%). From 2017 to 2019, it predicts a global CAGR of at least 13% per year and reports that robotics manufacturers have increased their production capacities to cater for this growth.

Three sectors – automotive, electrical/electronics, and metals and machinery – still dominate applications for industrial robots, accounting for 70% of all installed robots in 2015. The fastest-growing of these was the electronics industry, with an 18% rise in installations last year, followed by the metals industry on 16%, and the automotive sector on 10%.

China is still on track to become the world’s biggest user of industrial robots, accounting for around 40% of global sales by 2019. But 14 of the 22 countries with above-average numbers of industrial robots per 10,000 employees are currently located in the EU.

Robot densities in the big Western European economies are still ahead of China. The leader is Germany with 301 robots per 10,000 employees, compared with just 49 in China. Bringing up the rear in the EU is the UK with 71 robots per 10,000 employees, putting it in 22nd position globally, and just above the global average of 69.

The strongest growth figures in Europe are coming from the Central and Eastern European states, where sales grew by about 25% in 2015. A 29% growth rate is forecast for 2016.

The US is currently the world’s fourth-largest market for industrial robots. Within the Nafta area (US, Canada and Mexico), the number of newly installed industrial robots rose by 17% last year to a new record of 36,000, with the US accounting for three-quarters of the new machines. IFR predicts that North America will see an average annual growth in sales of robots of 5–10% between 2016 and 2019.

The IFR figures, published in its 2016 World Robotics Report, suggest that industrial robots are not necessarily destroying jobs as is sometimes assumed. The US automotive sector, for example, installed 80,000 new robots between 2010 and 2015, and created 230,000 new jobs at the same time. And in Germany, the number of robots in the automotive sector increased by about 3% a year (or more than 13,000 machines) over the same period, while the numbers of workers grew by an average of 2.5% per year (or more than 93,000 employees).

The positive effect of automation on jobs is confirmed by a recent study published by the Mannheim Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and the University of Utrecht. This reported that reduced production costs result in lower prices, leading to increasing demand, which triggers more jobs.

The IFR report confirms the growing interest in collaboration between humans and machines, simplified applications, and light-weight robots. Interest is also growing in two-armed robots, mobile systems, and the integration of robots into existing environments.

The IFR suggests that there will be an increasing focus on modular robots and robotic systems, which can be marketed at extremely attractive prices. It says that the demand for industrial robots is being driven various factors including the need to handle new materials, energy efficiency, and automation concepts that link real-world factories with the virtual world – as exemplified by Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things.