The latest World Robotics report from the International Federation of Robotics shows an all-time high of 517,385 new industrial robots installed in 2021 in factories around the world. This represents a growth rate of 31% year-on-year, and exceeds the pre-pandemic record of robot installation in 2018 by 22%. Altogether, the number of robots currently operational around the globe is reckoned to be about 3.5 million units — roughly the population of Uruguay.
“The use of robotics and automation is growing at a breathtaking speed,” says Marina Bill, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Within six years, annual robot installations more than doubled. According to our latest statistics, installations grew strongly in 2021 in all major customer industries, although supply chain disruptions as well as different local or regional headwinds hampered production.”
Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots. 74% of all newly deployed robots in 2021 were installed in Asia (2020: 70%).
In 2021, 50,712 industrial robots were installed in the Americas, 31% more than in 2020, and new installations were up by 14% to 34,987 units. IFR says this is a remarkable recovery from the pandemic dip in 2020 and the second time that robot installations in the Americas exceeded the 50,000-unit mark, with 55,212 units in 2018 setting the benchmark.
While the report did not break down use of robotics in warehouses and fulfillment centers, it did note a growing technological trend towards cobots — robots designed to work in close collaboration with humans, which are being deployed by Amazon, DHL and others. Human-robot collaboration is steadily developing, IFR finds, with adoption being driven by ease of use.
In total, global robot installations are expected to grow by 10% to almost 570,000 units in 2022. But the post-pandemic boom is expected to fade out and, from 2022 to 2025, average annual growth rates in the medium to upper single-digit range are forecast.
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