July 1, 2021

IFR Yaskawa400x275Preliminary data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) indicates that China saw a sales increase of 19% for industrial robots in 2020, with 167,000 robots shipped. While global robot installations in 2020 were down 2%, the IFR said the sales decline was more moderate than expected.

“The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic,” said Milton Guerry, president of the IFR. “In China, where the coronavirus lockdown came into force first, the robotics industry started to recover already in 2020.”

The IFR said market growth in China also had a strong positive impact on foreign suppliers, which were up 24%, or 123,000 industrial robots shipped from abroad. Japanese suppliers have a dominant market share, while domestic suppliers delivered 44,000 units to their home markets, an increase of 8% compared to 2019. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is projecting 5.5% global GDP growth in 2021 and 4% in 2022. However, the IFR said the situation is mixed in different countries.

Order intakes of robotics in 2021 give reason to expect strong growth in North America and Europe, the IFR said, with order books in the U.S. filling up fast. In Germany, the forecast for 2021 shows a strong recovery and signifies a positive turning point for the industry. “Even better  sales figures will be achievable if the current supply bottlenecks for key components can be quickly overcome,” the IFR said.

Graph global annual shipments preliminary data for 2020

In addition, companies dedicated to climate neutrality are generating new business, as economies have started to scale renewable energies and environmental technologies, the IFR said. Robotics and automation are enabling companies of all sizes to produce components needed, such as fuel cells for hydrogen-powered cars, or batteries for transportation and solar panels in the energy sector. The next generation of robots will help optimize performance in the production process, moving manufacturing closer to regional markets at a competitive cost, the IFR said.

“Robotics have proven flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand as well as smaller batch sizes,” said Guerry. “The benefits of increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive.”