Record 2.7M industrial robots are in operation, but demand has slowed: report

Dive Brief:

  • Global sales of new industrial robots reached 373,000 units shipped in 2019, marking the third-highest volume in sales on record, although down 12% from the year before, according to the 2020 World Robotics Report by the International Federation of Robotics.  [1]
  • The overall number of industrial robots operating in factories worldwide grew to 2.7 million in 2019 — a 12% increase from 2018 and a historic high, the report shows. The installation of collaborative robots, known as cobots, also grew at 11% YoY.
  • It is doubtful that any large-scale orders for robotics will be placed before the end of 2020, IFR President Milton Guerry said in a press release, and while economies across the globe show improvement, the demand for robots “may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level.”

Dive Insight:

The integration of industrial robots and cobots into factory workspaces to improve accuracy and efficiency saw numbers reach near record highs, but it has slowed based on 2019 sales, the IFR report shows. While there are more robots in operation now, demand will most likely ebb until economies encourage companies to make new investments again.

Despite the overall drop in industrial robotic sales, the deployment of new cobots jumped to 18,049 units — a 4.8% share of total robot installations in 2019. That’s up from 2.8% in 2017 when IFR started collecting cobot data. IFR attributes the increase to more suppliers offering cobots and a broader range of applications.

IFR believes the slowdown in robotic sales is mostly due to difficulties experienced by the main two customer industries, automotive and electronics. And because sales were down one third in Asia — the top market for industrial robots — it had a substantial impact on global sales for the year. 

The US remains the leading user of industrial robots in the western hemisphere, with 293,000 units in operation, followed by Mexico and Canada. However, new installations in the U.S. also slowed with 17% YoY. 

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