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UK drops below the global average in use of industrial robots

07 February, 2018

The UK has fallen below the global average in its use of industrial robots – the only G7 country to be in this position. Figures just released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reveal that the UK had 71 robots per 10,000 people employed in manufacturing industry during 2016, putting it below the global average of 74, and in 22nd position behind countries such as Slovenia (on 137 per 10,000), Slovakia (135) and the Czech Republic (101).

The world’s biggest user of industrial robots, South Korea, had 631 robots for every 10,000 people employed in its manufacturing sector in 2016, putting it ahead of Singapore (on 488), Germany (309), Japan (303), Sweden (223), Denmark (211) and the US (189).

While the global average robot population density increased from 66 robots per 10,000 in 2015 to 74 in 2016, the UK remained static on 71, taking it below the global average for the first time.

The IFR says that UK industry “is highly in need of necessary investment in order to modernise and increase productivity. The low robot density rate is indicative of this fact.” Despite the UK’s decision to leave the EU, it adds, “there are currently many suggested investment plans for capacity expansion and modernisation of foreign and local automotive companies. It is not evident though whether companies will hold back investments due to uncertainties concerning customs duties.”

The UK was probably overtaken during 2017 by China, whose robot density rose from 25 per 10,000 in 2013 to 68 by 2016, putting it in 23rd position, just behind the UK. The Chinese government is aiming to make the country one of the world’s ten most intensively automated nations by 2010, with a target robot population density of 150. It wants 100,000 of these robots to come from Chinese manufacturers, compared to the 27,000 supplied last year when China bought 60,000 industrial robots from foreign suppliers.

Europe is still the region with the highest average robot density of 99 robots per 10,000 employees, followed by the Americas on 84 and Asia on 63. But Asia is the fastest-expanding region with an average annual growth rate of 9% between 2010 and 2016, compared to 7% in the Americas and 5% in Europe.

In 2016, Germany accounted for 41% of all industrial robots bought in Europe and supplied 36% of the robots sold in the region. Between 2018 and 2020, the annual supply in Germany is forecast to grow by at least 5% per year due to an increasing demand for robots from both general industry and the automotive sector.

The 21 countries with the highest numbers of industrial robots installed per 10,000 manufacturing employees during 2016.
Source: IFR

France has a robot density of 132 robots per 10,000 (putting it in 18th position globally). It is ahead of the global average of 74 robots, but behind other EU member countries such as Sweden (223), Denmark (211), Italy (185) and Spain (160). But, says the IFR, under its new government, France is regaining competitiveness in its manufacturing sector, with the number of robot installations thought to have expanded by about 10% last year. Between 2018 and 2020, an average annual growth rate of 5–10% is predicted for France.

In the US, the industrial robot density increased from 176 per 10,000 in 2015 to 189 in 2016 – putting it in seventh position globally. Robot sales in the US have been boosted since 2010 by the modernisation of domestic production, driven by a desire to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home. In some cases, manufacturing that had previously been sent abroad has been brought back to the US. The automotive industry is still the main customer for industrial robots in the US, accounting for about 52% of sales in 2016. Robot sales in the US are forecast to expand by an average of at least 15% per year between 2017 and 2020.

South Korea has had the world’s highest density of industrial robots since 2010. In 2016, it had 631 robots per 10,000 employees – more than eight times higher than the global average. Large numbers of robots are being installed in the electrical/electronics and automotive industries, in particular.

Singapore, in second place globally, had 488 robots per 10,000 employees in 2016 – about 90% of them being used in the electronics industry.

Japan is still the world’s leading manufacturer of industrial robots, producing a record 153,000 machines in 2016. Japanese manufacturers are responsible for 52% of the global supply of industrial robots, but the country’s own installed robot density was almost unchanged between 2015 and 2016.

Countries whose robot densities were lower than the global average in 2016. The UK, in 22nd place, has probably already been overtaken by China.
Source: IFR

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