Half a million robots installed in 2021

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Recently released, the latest World Robotics report shows that a record 517,385 new industrial robots were installed in factories around the world in 2021.

That’s a growth rate of 31% year-on-year and the number of installed robots now exceeds the pre-pandemic record of robot installation in 2018 by 22%.

According to the report there are now 3.5m robots installed worldwide and it suggests that growth remains strong, despite supply chain disruptions.

The report found that Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots, with 74% of all newly deployed robots in 2021 installed there.

China grew strongly by 51% with 268,195 units shipped and operational stock levels have broken the 1-million-unit mark (+27%).

Japan remained second to China as the largest market for industrial robots. Installations were up 22% in 2021 with 47,182 units and an operational stock level of 393,326 units (+5%) in 2021. Japan is the world´s predominant robot manufacturing country and exports of Japanese industrial robots achieved a new peak level at 186,102 units in 2021.

Turning to Europe robot installations were up 24% to 84,302 units in 2021, helped by continuing demand from the automotive industry.

Germany had a share of 28% of total installations in Europe. Italy followed with 17% and France with 7%.

The number of installed robots in Germany grew by 6% to 23,777 units in 2021. This is the second highest installation count ever recorded, following the peak caused by massive investments from the automotive industry in 2018 (26,723 units). The operational stock of robots was calculated at 245,908 units (+7%) in 2021. Exports of industrial robots from Germany were up 41% to 22,870 units, exceeding the pre-pandemic level.

Italy is the second largest robot market in Europe after Germany. The main growth driver between 2016 and 2021 was general industry with an annual average growth rate of 8% while France, ranked third in Europe in 2021 regarding annual installations and operational stock, saw an 11% increase in installations reaching 5,945 units. The operational stock of robots in France was calculated at 49,312 units, a 10% increase over the previous year.

By contrast, the United Kingdom saw industrial robot installations fall by 7% to 2,054 units. The operational stock of robots was calculated at 24,445 units (+6%) in 2021, less than a tenth of Germany´s total but perhaps that simply reflects the size and profile of the manufacturing sector in the UK.

In 2021, 50,712 industrial robots were installed in the Americas, 31% more than in 2020.

New installations in the United States were up by 14% to 34,987 units in 2021. This exceeded the pre-pandemic level of 33,378 units in 2019 but was still considerably lower than the peak level of 40,373 units seen back in 2018. The automotive industry is still by far the number one adopter with 9,782 units installed in 2021.

Installations in the metal and machinery industry surged by 66% to 3,814 units in 2021, putting this industry into second place in terms of robot demand behind automotive.

The plastic and chemical products industry had 3,466 robots (+30%) newly installed in 2021. The food and beverage industry installed 25% more robots, reaching a new peak level of 3,402 units in 2021.

So, what’s the outlook?

Rising energy prices, intermediate product prices and scarcity of electronic components are challenging all branches of the global economy. But order books are said to be still full and demand for industrial robots remains higher than ever.

In total, global robot installations are expected to grow by 10% to almost 570,000 units in 2022. The post-pandemic boom experienced in 2021 is expected to fade out in 2022, however, which means that from 2022 to 2025, the average annual growth rates are likely to drop back from double digit growth rates to upper single digit growth rates.