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18 September, 2021

Global robot sales fell by 2% in 2020, but China leads recovery

01 July, 2021

The number of industrial robots installed around the world fell by 2% in 2020 compared to 2019, despite a 19% growth in the number installed in China, according to preliminary figures issued by the International Federation of Robotics. The IFR describes the fall in sales during the year that the globe was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic as “more moderate than expected”.

The Federation reports that orders for robots so far this year give reason to expect strong growth in North America and Europe. Order books in the US, for example, are “filling up fast”. A strong recovery is expected in Germany, signifying “a positive turning point for the industry”, according to the IFR. Even better sales figures will be achievable if the current bottlenecks in the supply of key components can be overcome quickly.

The IFR says that the drive towards climate neutrality is generating new business for robot-makers. To achieve their ambitious climate targets, countries around the world have started to scale up their use of renewable energies and environmental technologies “to unprecedented dimensions”. Robotics and automation are helping to produce the components needed, such as fuel cells for hydrogen-powered cars, batteries for the transport sector, and solar panels for the energy sector. A new generation of easy-to-use robots is helping to optimise production, and to move manufacturing closer to regional markets at a competitive cost.

“Robotics have proven flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand as well as smaller batch sizes,” comments IFR president, Milton Guerry. “The benefits of increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive.”

Turning to the Chinese market, he reports that the robotics industry started to recover in 2020, with 167,000 industrial robots being shipped.

The number of industrial robots installed around the world (shown in 1,000s) fell for the second years running during 2020
Source: IFR preliminary staistics

The expansion of the Chinese market is having a strong positive impact on foreign suppliers, with a 24% increase in the number of industrial robots being imported, to reach a total of 123,000. Japanese suppliers dominate the market, with domestic Chinese suppliers delivering 44,000 machines to their home market – 8% more than in 2019.

“The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic”, Guerry concludes.

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