The rise of the machines has well and truly started. Data from the International Federation of Robotics reveals that the pace of industrial automation is accelerating across much of the developed world with 74 installed industrial robots per 10,000 employees globally in 2016. By 2020, that increased to 113 across the manufacturing sector. Asia now has a robot density of 118 units per 10,000 workers and that figure is 114 and 103 in Europe and the Americas, respectively. China is one of the countries recording the highest growth levels in industrial automation but nowhere has a robot density like South Korea.
The rise of the machines has well and truly started. Data from the International Federation of Robotics reveals that the pace of industrial automation is accelerating across much of the developed world with 66 installed industrial robots per 10,000 employees globally in 2015. A year later, that increased to 74. Europe has a robot density of 99 units per 10,000 workers and that number is 84 and 63 in the Americas and Asia respectively. China is one of the countries recording the highest growth levels in industrial automation but nowhere has a robot density like South Korea.
Research has found a link between higher densities of robots in a population and increased levels of productivity. The study – conducted by supply chain specialists Balloon One – analysed countries with similar levels of manufacturing output and looked at their densities of robots and GDP per hours worked. Balloon One's research found that: "This analysis shows that countries with a robot density of 150 or more are, on average, experiencing higher productivity levels than those with a robot density of 149 or less. While it could be argued that this is a result of some nations being more focused on manufacturing as part of their economy, and therefore having developed better infrastructure to meet demand, higher levels of productivity aren't skewed towards nations that rely more heavily on manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing levels are, on average, higher (17.86% of GDP) in less-robot-dense nations. Because there is a correlation between robot density and higher levels of productivity, it seems that if the UK increased its robot density, it could boost productivity. This begs the question of whether the country should invest more in automation if it wants to see a boost in its manufacturing productivity. It certainly seems to be working for nations of a similar standing."
China purchased 141,000 industrial robots in 2017, up 58.1 per cent year-on-year, but foreign brands accounted for nearly three-quarters of that, showing that the gap is still widening between Chinese robot makers and their foreign peers. The China International Robot Industry Summit, held in Shanghai, said the sales and growth rate of industrial robots hit records in 2017. Among industrial robots, 37,825 were domestically manufactured, up 29.8 per cent year-on-year. "As robotics is expanding into nearly every industry, Chinese robot makers should realise the gap between them and foreign brands, take advantage of China's robotics development boom and learn from foreign experience to help China grow from the world's largest robot market into a robot manufacturing power," said Qu Daokui, president of China Robot Industry Alliance and chief executive of the Shenyang-based Siasun Robot and Automation company. According to Mr Qu, foreign robot makers sold 103,191 robots to China in 2017, up 71.9 per cent from a year earlier.