The automation of production is accelerating around the world, according to new figures published by the International Federation of Robotics, which shows global robot density is on the rise.
The 2017 World Robot Statistics have revealed that 74 robot units per 10 000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries, up from 66 units in 2015.
By regions, the average robot density in Europe is 99 units, in the Americas 84 and in Asia 63 units. The top 10 most automated countries in the world are: South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, the US, Italy, Belgium and Taiwan.
The region with the highest growth rate of robot density, unsurprisingly, is Asia. Between 2010 and 2016, its average annual growth rate was 9%, compared to 7% in the Americas and 5% in Europe.
The development of robot density in China was the most dynamic in the world. Due to the significant growth of robot installations, particularly between 2013 and 2016, the density rate rose from 25 units in 2013 to 68 units in 2016.
Today, China’s robot density ranks 23rd worldwide. And the government reportedly intends to forge ahead and make it into the world’s top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020. By then, its robot density is targeted to rise to 150 units.
Worldwide, the Republic of Korea has by far the highest robot density in the manufacturing industry – a position the country has held since 2010.
The country’s robot density exceeds the global average by a good eight-fold (631 units). This high growth rate is attributed to the continued installation of a high volume of robots particularly in the electrical/electronics industry and in the automotive industry.
Singapore follows in second place with a rate of 488 robots per 10 000 employees in 2016. About 90% of robots are installed in the electronics industry in Singapore. Japan ranked fourth in the world: In 2016, 303 robots were installed per 10 000 employees in the manufacturing industry – following Germany’s ranking of third (309 units).
Japan is the world’s predominant industrial robot manufacturer: The production capacity of Japanese suppliers reached 153 000 units in 2016 – the highest level ever recorded. Today, Japan’s manufacturers deliver 52% of the global supply.
Robot density in the United States increased significantly to 189 robots in 2016 – the country ranks seventh in the world.
Since 2010, the necessary modernisation of domestic production facilities has boosted robot sales in the US. The main driver of this growth was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, to bring back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas.
The automotive industry still leads as the main customer of industrial robots with more than half of total sales in 2016 (52%).
Robot sales in the US will continue to increase between 2017 and 2020 by at least 15% on average per year.
Mexico is predominantly a production hub for car manufacturers and automotive parts suppliers that export to the US and increasingly to South America. Mexico’s automotive industry is by far the main robot customer with a share of 81% in 2016.
Europe’s most automated country is Germany – ranking third worldwide with 309 units. The annual supply and the operational stock of industrial robots in 2016 had a share of 36% and 41% respectively of total robot sales in Europe.
Between 2018 and 2020, the annual supply in Germany will continue to grow by at least 5% on average per year due to the increasing demand for robots in the general industry and in the automotive industry.
France has a robot density of 132 units (ranking 18th in the world), which is well above the global average of 74 robots – but relatively weak compared to other EU countries such as Sweden (223 units), Denmark (211 units), Italy (185 units) and Spain (160 units).
But under the new government, France is in the process of regaining competitiveness in its manufacturing sectors. This may, to a certain extent, promote installations of new robots in the next few years.
Between 2018 and 2020, average annual growth in the number of robot installations in France is expected to increase by between 5 to 10%.
The UK has a robot density below the world average of 74 units with 71 units, ranking 22nd.
As we are so often told, the general 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 decision to leave the EU, 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 IFR noted.