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Global industrial robot sales ‘will reach 1.3 million by 2018’

29 February, 2016

By 2018, around 1.3 million industrial robots will be entering service in factories around the world, according to the latest forecast from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Revenues are soaring and the global market for robotic systems is already worth around $32bn. Between 2013 and 2014, sales to the high-revenue automotive sector grew by a record-breaking 43%, the IFR reports.

The Federation regards robotic density as being a key performance indicator for gauging levels of automation in different counries. The average global figure is currently about 66 robot units per 10,000 employees in the production industries.

A total of 21 countries have robot densities above this average figure, and more than one-half of these are located in the European Union (14 countries). There are also three Asian economies (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan), as well as the US and Canada. The UK is in 21st position, putting almost exactly on the average figure ­– driven largely by heavy investment in the automotive sector.

The current global leader in industrial robotic automation is South Korea, where the industrial robot density is more than seven times the global average (478 robots per 10,000 employees), followed by Japan (314) and Germany (292). The US, with a robotic density of 164 per 10,000 employees, currently lies in seventh place in the global league table.

China, with 36 robots per 100,000 employees – about half the global average figure – is currently in 28th place, on a similar level to Portugal or Indonesia. However, about five years ago, China embarked on an game of catch-up, and is already the world's biggest market for industrial robots, in terms of both sales and growth.

Number of multipurpose industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees
Source: IFR

In 2014, China bought 57,100 robots and the IFR predicts that by 2018, it will account for more than a third of the industrial robots installed worldwide.

“The robotic boom is laying down an important milestone in the realisation of the fourth industrial revolution,” says IFR president, Joe Gemma. “With their digital interfaces, industrial robots can be seamlessly integrated into the networked structures of smart factories. This is a benefit exploited by highly automated economies and by countries adopting a new industrial focus.

“Further impetus is coming into the form of the technological breakthrough in human-robot collaboration,” he adds. “Robotic workers will in future be found working hand-in-hand with human staff, helping to replace traditional, rigid production processes with flexible structures.”

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