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UK robot sales fell by 3% in 2018 – while the EU grew by 12%

16 May, 2019

The number of industrial robots installed in the UK fell by 3% during 2018 to 2,306, according to the latest figures issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). This compares to a 31% spurt in growth recorded during 2017.

The UK now ranks 22nd in the global league of industrial robot users, with 85 robots per 10,000 workers in its manufacturing sector – putting it on the same level as the global average. China overtook the UK in 2017 and is currently ranked 21st with 97 robots per 10,000 workers.

The IFR figures – preliminary results from its forthcoming 2019 World Robotics Report –­ are not as dramatic as those issued by the British Automation and Robot Association (Bara) earlier this year, which reported a 15% decline.

“The UK has been adding robot automation at a lower rate than our main competitors in all manufacturing sectors outside of automotive,” comments Bara chairman, Mike Wilson. “Over many years, the UK has attracted workers from other countries, with businesses preferring to hire people rather than invest in capital equipment.

In the most recent figures issued by the IFR (for 2017), the UK is no longer in the leading 21 nations for robot density. The IFR is due to release the figures for 2018 later this year.
Source: IFR

“The consequences of the Brexit vote and subsequent political developments are leading to reduced labour availability as the many workers who have come over from Eastern Europe are starting to return home’” he adds. “As a result, businesses have to ensure that they use their workforce effectively and find alternative ways of performing tasks for which they have a shortage of staff – robot automation being an obvious solution.”

Elsewhere in Europe, sales of industrial robots are continuing to climb with the number installed across the EU rising by 12% during 2018. In global terms, Europe has the highest regional density, with 106 industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees. Germany has the third-largest national figure, with Sweden (5th), Denmark (6th), Belgium (9th) and Italy (10th) all being in the global top 10.

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