Rise of robots and automation

The automation of production is accelerating around the world: 74 robot units per 10,000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries (2015: 66 units). By regions, the average robot density in Europe is 99 units, in the Americas 84 and in Asia 63 units.

Between 2010 and 2016, the average annual growth rate of robot density in Asia was 9 percent, in the Americas 7 percent and in Europe 5 percent. Asia is doubling its robot density every 7 years and Americas every 10 years.

Current trends indicate that world leading South Korea could have 1 industrial robot for every 4 manufacturing worker around 2030-2035. China will likely only have 1 industrial robot for every 25-30 manufacturing workers in 2030 but this would mean 3.5 to 4 million industrial robots in China. If the growth rate in robots accelerates to about double the 2010-2016 growth rate then the robot population could double every 5 years. With a faster growth rate in robots, China would then have 1 industrial robot for every 15-16 manufacturing workers in 2030 but this would mean 7 to 8 million industrial robots in China.

By 2020 the worldwide stock of operational industrial robots will increase from about 1,828,000 units at the end of 2016 to 3,053,000 units. This represents an average annual growth rate of 14 percent between 2018 and 2020. In Australasia the operational stock of robots is estimated to increase by 16 percent in 2017, by 9 percent in the Americas and by 7 percent in Europe. Since 2016, the largest number of industrial robots in operation has been in China. In 2020, this will amount to about 950,300 units, considerably more than in Europe (611,700 units). The Japanese robot stock will slightly increase in the period between 2018 and 2020. About 1.9 million robots will be in operation across Asia in 2020. This is almost equal to the global stock of robots in 2016.

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 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. Furthermore, the aim is to sell a total of 100,000 domestically produced industrial robots by 2020 (2017: 27,000 units from Chinese robot suppliers, 60,000 from foreign robot suppliers).

China has set goals to be able to make 150,000 industrial robots in 2020; 260,000 in 2025; and 400,000 by 2030. If achieved, the plan should help generate $88 billion over the next decade. China’s stated goal in both their 5-year plan and Made in China 2025 program is to overtake Germany, Japan, and the United States in terms of manufacturing sophistication by 2049.

In 2014, China had 120 million manufacturing workers—more than 10 times the employment in U.S. manufacturing. China had 42% of the world’s manufacturing workers.

If China maintained that level of manufacturing workers, then China would need about 8 million industrial robots to match the current robot density of South Korea. South Korea currently has 631 robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers.

For China to reach
* a robot density of 150 per 10,000 workers they would need 1.8 million industrial robots.
* a robot density of 200 per 10,000 workers they would need 2.4 million industrial robots.
* a robot density of 300 per 10,000 workers they would need 3.6 million industrial robots
* a robot density of 400 per 10,000 workers they would need 4.8 million industrial robots
* a robot density of 500 per 10,000 workers they would need 6.0 million industrial robots
* a robot density of 600 per 10,000 workers they would need 7.2 million industrial robots

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 the result of continued installations of a high volume of robots particularly in the electrical/electronics industry and in the automotive industry. About 41,400 units were sold in South Korea in 2016. This is a rise of 8 percent compared to 2015. South Korea’s robot density will likely double by 2025 and double again by 2033.

Singapore follows in second place with a rate of 488 robots per 10,000 employees in 2016. About 90 percent 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 ranking 3rd (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 percent of the global supply.

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