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Record number of robots in UK factories

The number of industrial robots operating in UK factories grew by 5 per cent last year, with COVID-19 and the UK’s departure from the EU expected to further boost uptake in the long-term.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), there are now around 21,700 industrial robots in operation in the UK.

The automotive industry is by far the largest user of robots, accounting for 52 per cent of the UK’s stock as of the end of 2019. The second-largest user is the plastics and chemicals sector, accounting for 13 per cent.

Globally, there are now 2.7 million industrial robots in factories around the world - an increase of 12 per cent. Asia remains the strongest market; particularly China, Japan and South Korea. India is fast catching up, having doubled the number of robots in its factories within just five years.

Germany remains the top country for robotics in Europe, followed by Italy and France. Despite the UK’s increasing numbers, it remains a slow adopter relative to the rest of the world and sits outside the top 15 countries for robots installed over the last year.

Milton Guerry, President of the IFR, commented:

“The United Kingdom has a surprisingly low robot stock for a western European country in the manufacturing industry. Though the UK´s operational stock hits a new record, other European countries like France, Italy and Germany have between two times and even ten times the stock in operation. The automotive and the general industry need to invest in automation technology to keep up with international competition.”

Investment in robotics has been dampened in the short-term due to COVID-19 and uncertainty around the nature of the UK’s exit from the EU. However, in the medium- to long-term, both events are forecasted to lead to an increase in automation.

It is believed automation will help manufacturers retain production in developed countries or reshore it from abroad in the aftermath of the Coronavirus. By 2022, the IFR expects there to be almost 4 million robots in operation worldwide.

Visit Made Smarter for specialist support with automation and other industrial digital technologies.

Photo © ABB: Robots welding parts in the automotive industry.

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