IFR: Robot installations hit an all time high in 2021

Annual installations of industrial robots worldwide. | Source: IFR

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) released its new world robotics report. The report showed that 517,385 new industrial robots were installed in 2021 in factories around the world, an all-time high for the industry. 

Robot installations grew by 31% year-over-year in 2021. They exceeded the pre-pandemic record of robot installations in 2018 by 22%. The stock of operation robot around the world also hit a new record of about 3.5 million units. 

“The use of robotics and automation is growing at a breathtaking speed,” Marina Bill, President of the IFR, said. “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.”

Installations grow in the world’s largest market

The world’s largest industrial robot market continues to be in Asia. 74% of all newly deployed robots in 2021 were installed in Asia, an increase from 70% in 2020. The region’s largest adopter, China, grew installations by 51%, with 268,195 units shipped. 

China hit a few milestones in 2021. Its operational stock broke the 1 million mark, and every other robot installed globally in 2021 was deployed in the country. 

While China has been rapidly increasing the number of robots at work in the country, many of those robots still come from foreign suppliers, particularly from Japan, South Korea and Europe. In 2020, foreign manufacturers had a combined share of the Chinese robotics market of 73%, according to the IFR. 

Japan remains the world’s predominant robot manufacturying country, exporting 182,102 units in 2021. The country is second to China in installations, with Japan’s rising 22% in 2021 at 47,182 units. The growth ends a two year decline in robot installations that happened in all major industries within Japan. 

In South Korea, installations increased by 2% to 31,083 units. This ended a four year streak of declining robot installations within the country. 

Robot installations grow in the west

European robot installations grew by 24% to 84,302 units in 2021, a new peak for the region. The region’s biggest market is in Germany, which makes up 28% of all installations in Europe. Installations in the country grew by 6% to 23,777 units in 2021. Germany’s exports of industrial robots also grew in 2021, rising 41% to 22,870 units. 

The second biggest market in Europe is in Italy, where robot installation growth has been driven by the general industry. Italy hit a new record level of 14,083 units in 2021, a 65% increase from the year before.

Robot installations in the Americas recovered from its pandemic-related dip in 2020, with the region installing 50,712 industrial robots in 2021, a 31% increase from the year before. This is the second time that robot installations in the Americas exceeded 50,000 units, with the first time being in 2018. 

Installations in the United States were up by 14% to 34,987 units in 2021. While this was an increase from pandemic levels, it’s still lower than its peak in 2018 at 40,373 units. 

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