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Here’s a fact about industrial robots that might shock you

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

This might shock you.

If I was to ask you how many industrial robots operate around the world today, how many would you say? Roughly ten million, maybe 15, or even 20. Perhaps more. And considering that the world population is nearly eight billion people, there must be a load of industrial robots out there, right?

Also, bear in mind that industrial robots first started coming onto the scene in the 1960s. 

So, a huge number of industrial robots must be working hard throughout the world? Well no. The latest figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) suggest a very different figure.

They put the total at just 2.7 million robots. Yes, there are less than three million industrial robots operating in factories around the world today.

Mind you, this is an increase of 12% and sales of new robots remain on a high level with 373,000 units shipped globally in 2019. This is 12% less compared to 2018, but still the third highest sales volume ever recorded.

The figures were revealed in the latest World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report presented by the IFR.

“The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history,” said Milton Guerry, President of the IFR. “Driven by the success story of smart production and automation this is a worldwide increase of about 85% within five years (2014-2019). The recent slowdown in sales by 12% reflects the difficult times the two main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, have experienced.”

“In addition to that, the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed yet. The remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by adaptation to the ´new normal´. Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year. China might be an exception, because the coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and the country already started its recovery in the second quarter. 

“Other economies report to be at the turning point right now. But it will take a few months until this translates into automation projects and robot demand. 2021 will see recovery, but it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level.”

Which gives rise to one of the problems that the robotics industry has when convincing larger industries to automate. It is a small industry trying to persuade much larger industries to radically change and adopt wider automation; they lack the might to win the argument in one blow and have to conduct a series of smaller campaigns.

Robots and automation are on the rise, but they have a long way to go before it can truly be said that they have ‘arrived.’

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Also, bear in mind that industrial robots first started coming onto the scene in the 1960s.

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