100,000+ mobile robots shipped in 2021

Autonomous mobile robots from Locus Robotics. | Credit: Locus Robotics

More than 100,000 mobile robots, including automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), shipped globally in 2021, according to a recent report from Interact Analysis. Overall, the number of robots shipped in 2021 rose 70% from the year before, which resulted in a 36% increase in revenue. 

Revenue for mobile robots hit almost $3 billion in 2021. For the first time in the over 40 years AGVs have been on the marketplace, AMRs surpassed them in revenue last year. AMRs brought in $1.6 billion annually, while AGVs finished almost $300 million behind AMRs.

AGVs also trailed AMRs in the number of units shipped. In 2021, there were 82,000 AMRs shipped, compared to 18,000 AGVs. Interact Analysis expects both markets to continue to grow. By 2025, it estimates AMR shipments will reach 640,000, while AGV shipments will reach just 43,000. 

The biggest market for mobile robots is China, which made up 40% of worldwide shipments in 2021. Following China is the United States, which made up over 25% of shipments. 

Interact Analysis predicts that by 2025, close to two million robots will be installed globally. China and the U.S. are expected to both play a large role in the market, but other countries that face high labor cost, low unemployment and high e-commerce penetration will also see growth. 

One such country is the UK, which says 2,300 units shipped in 2021. By 2025, Interact Analysis expects that number to rise by 700% by 2025, hitting over 18,500 units shipped. Countries that have lower labor costs, like India, are expected to see slower growth. In 2021, India had 566 mobile robots shipped, and that number is only expected to climb to 2,700 by 2025. 

Mobile robots see growth in different markets 

Mobile robot shipments in 2021. | Source: Interact Analysis

Mobile robots are flexible, cost effective and scalable, making them easy to implement in a variety of industries. Mobile robot sales are typically driven by demand from logistics, especially e-commerce. It’s no surprise, then, that mobile robots saw a lot of growth in merchandise, including retailers outside of the apparel and grocery sectors. 

22,000 units were shipped to general merchandise retailers in 2021. Following general merchandise retailers is automotive manufacturing, which shipped 15,000 units. Interact Analysis expects the general merchandise sector to grow 600% by 2025, reaching over 154,000 shipments. 

Mobile robots have also seen growth with third-party logistics (3PL) firms. 3PL firms are typically hesitant to automate, as large-scale integration automation solutions can be expensive and timely to implement. Mobile robots eliminate those issues, and are able to keep up with a booming 3PL industry. 

Overall growth in the mobile robot industry culminated in the first AMR company achieving ‘unicorn’ status. Last year, Locus Robotics reached a billion dollar valuation. 

AMRs weren’t the only type of robot to see growth in 2021. Last year set a new record for number of industrial robots sold in North America, with 39,708 units shipped, according to the Association for Advancing Automation. 

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