The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has forecast that by 2020 more than 1.7 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories across the world.
World Robotics Report 2017 found that at the end of 2016 worldwide stock of operational industrial robots was 1.8m. This is set to increase to over 3m by 2020, representing average annual growth of 14%. Adoption in Europe is predicted to rise below the annual average – at just 7%.
Five markets dominate sales and operation of robots – China, South Korea, Japan, USA and Germany, with China holding a 30% share of total supply at the end of 2016.
Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world and by far the largest in Europe. The annual supply and operational stock of industrial robots in 2016 had a share of 36% and 41% respectively of total robot sales in Europe.
Cloud robotics set to grow
Analysts predict a rapidly growing market for cloud robotics, in which data from one robot is compared to data from other robots in the same or different locations. The cloud network allows these connected robots to perform the same activities. This will be used to optimise parameters of the robot’s movement such as speed, angle or force. Ultimately, the advent of big data in manufacturing could redefine the industry boundaries between equipment makers and manufacturers.
Automating small and medium manufacturers
The report found that robot manufacturers are considering rental services to specifically accelerate adoption by small and medium sized manufacturers. There is demand for robots which are easier to programme and operate in standard production processes for industries and businesses without specialist production engineers in-house.
Robots that are uncomplicated to use will enable the deployment of industrial robots in many industries to sustain efficient and flexible manufacturing.
Robots will improve manufacturing jobs
For many this report will raise concern about job preservation in the manufacturing sector, however the adoption of smart technology is no threat according to Joe Kaeser, President and CEO of Siemens AG. His recent piece for Time Magazine ‘Why Robots Will Improve Manufacturing Jobs’, disputed the widely held view that the implementation of robots will decrease the number of jobs within manufacturing.
“Today, German manufacturers deploy three times more robots than U.S. companies, but they also still employ more humans. Relative to the size of our economies, German’s manufacturing workforce is twice the size of America’s.”