July 29, 2016    Volume 23, No. 7

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Chinese Manufacturers Have Quickly Become The World's Largest Market For Industrial Robots


By Richard A. McCormack
richard@manufacturingnews.com

China is set to become the largest global producer of industrial robots. Annual sales of Chinese-made industrial robots to Chinese manufacturing companies are projected to reach 100,000 units by 2020, up from zero Chinese-made robots in 2012, and 20,400 in 2015, according to Wang Ruixiang, president of the China Machinery Industry Federation.

Last year, Chinese companies purchased 67,000 industrial robots, with domestic robot production accounting for 31 percent of total sales (up from a 25 percent of total sales in 2013).

"By the end of 2020, I reckon that the share of the domestic market enjoyed by Chinese robotic manufacturers could well increase to 50 percent," said Daokui Qu, CEO of Chinese robot manufacturer Siasun at a conference in Beijing sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

In 2009, only 5,500 industrial robots were sold in China. That number increased to 22,600 in 2011, 35,600 in 2014 and 67,000 in 2015. China is the world leader in the purchase of industrial robots.

China's robot density per 10,000 workers stood at 36 units in 2015. It is ranked 28th in the world by robot density. By 2020, the country expects that number to be 150 units per 10,000 workers.

Asia remains the largest and fastest growing market in the world for industrial robots, at 156,000 units in 2015, accounting for 63 percent of global sales of 248,000 units. Total sales in Asia last year increased by 16 percent over 2014.

The U.S. market for industrial robots increased by 3 percent in 2015 to 27,000 units (40,000 units below that of China). The U.S. accounted for 11 percent of global industrial robot sales in 2015, compared to 27 percent for China.

Sales in Europe increased by 10 percent to 50,000 units. South Korea (at 37,000 units) and Japan (at 35,000 units) both surpassed the U.S. market of 27,000 units. Mexico installed 5,500 units in 2015, double the amount from 2014, and an indication that there is "an extraordinarily large leap forward in automation registered in Mexico," says the IFR.

The total world market for industrial robots has quadruped since 2009, from 60,000 units to 248,000 units in 2015. Last year's global growth rate was 12 percent. "There is no end in sight to this growth trajectory," says the IFR. By 2018, 2.3 million robots will be operating on factory floors throughout the world, more than double the number in 2009.

The global automotive industry remains the largest market for industrial robots at 95,000 units purchased last year, followed by the electrical/electronics industry (53,300 units); metal (34,600 units), rubber and plastics (21,200 units); food (7,200 units); and pharmaceuticals (2,100 units).

Driving growth is the "continued need to automate production processes," says IFR. Flexible manufacturing, increasing demand for higher quality consumer goods, the need for sustainable production and the continued digitization of factories (through Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things) is driving growth of the robotics sector.

Robots are replacing jobs that require repetitive tasks, says IFR. "Workers will focus on jobs that require judgment, common sense, creativity, problem-solving skills and dexterity." Robots are also being designed to be more simple and to work safely and collaboratively with humans. There are also more mobile robots involved in the logistics of production processes.

In 2014, the total market value of the industrial robotic industry was $32 billion.


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