Industrial robots doubled, with every third service robot in transport
26 units per 10,000 employees in use
They don't need to sleep or take a break – industrial robots work around the clock with consistent quality. This makes them particularly attractive for companies in a market that is characterised by a shortage of skilled workers, but at the same time demands defect-free goods delivered ever more quickly. This was also shown by the latest figures from the World Robotics 2021 Report, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Whereas in 2015 there were 66 robot units per 10,000 employees worldwide, in 2020 there were almost twice as many. "Robot density is a very important metric to track the differences in automation levels between economies," Milton Guerry, president of the International Federation of Robotics, stated recently on the release of the latest report.
Germany has Europe's highest robot density
Germany is the most automated economy in Europe. A total of 230,600 industrial robot units were in use in 2020. With a robot density of 371 per 10,000 employees, Germany therefore has 38% of the total operational industrial robot stock in Europe.
France ranks 16th in the world
France ranks 16th in the world with a robot density of 194 units. This puts French companies well above the global average in this area (robot density 126). The situation is similar in other EU countries such as Spain (203 units), Austria (205 units) or the Netherlands (209 units).
Catching up in the UK
With a robot density of 101, the UK is the only G7 country below the global average. But here, too, they are increasing steadily: five years ago, the figure for robot units was still 71. It is not just Brexit and the resulting exodus of foreign workers that has increased demand. The government is encouraging the modernisation of the manufacturing sector through massive tax incentives for investment in equipment and machinery, and will do until 2023.
Wide range within continents
According to the latest World Robotics Report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the global figures are as follows: while robot density in Western Europe is at 242 units, it is at 167 in North America and 134 in Asia/Australia. The range within each continents is wide. For example, the world's most automated country, South Korea, has 932 units, followed by Singapore (605 units) and Japan (390 robots per 10,000 employees). Germany and Sweden, Europe's leaders, come in 4th and 5th place.
Service robots: Goods transport as top use
Total global sales of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) increased from 33,000 units in 2019 to 44,000 in 2020. This was reported by the International Federation of Robotics in its World Robotics 2021 Service Robots Report. This makes the transport of goods and merchandise the most important task area for professional service robots. Every third service robot is used in this area. Sales of AMR, including delivery robots, increased by 11% worldwide to over US$ 1 billion. AMR are used, for example, in production and warehouses. They are increasingly able to operate in flexible environments, such as with forklift trucks, other robots or humans.
The next top application trends after these are cleaning, medical robotics (this is the sector with the highest turnover as the highest individual prices are obtained here), social or communication robots, and robots in the hospitality industry.
In total, professional service robots generated a turnover of US$ 6.7 billion worldwide. The International Federation of Robotics calculated an increase of 12% in 2020. Sales of service robots for private and domestic use (including mainly vacuuming and lawn-mowing robots) increased by 16% to US$ 4.4 billion.
The pros and cons
How the use of robots pays off
- Productivity: Robots can be used flexibly around the clock. If required, larger batches can be produced or more operations can be completed.
- Error reduction: Robots deliver consistent quality.
- Health protection: If robots take over tasks in dangerous workplaces (for example, handling chemicals), this protects employees.
However, the disadvantages are also clear
- The acquisition costs for industrial and professional service robots are high.
- If work steps or movement sequences change, the robot must be reprogrammed every time.
- Technical faults and power failures can have devastating impacts.
- Appropriately qualified employees are required for the operation and maintenance of the machines.
The trend towards the use of industrial and service robots continues and received another huge boost during the pandemic. The advantages are clear, especially for larger companies. The high investment capital pays off after just a short time. In a market that focuses on speed and error reduction, but which is characterised by a shortage of suitable workers, especially in industrialised nations, robots offer a way to future-proof a company.