Collaborative Robots To Drive Future Robot Industry Growth

Following a slowdown in growth rate in the second half of 2018, the global industrial robot market declined further in 2019. Weak demand and stagnating automotive production rates have placed significant downward pressure on the global industrial robot market. However market research organization, Interact Analysis, has released a report stating there are reasons to be optimistic. Long term drivers, both for industrial robots and for automation as a whole, remain very strong seeing demand growth in new areas which accelerates the penetration rate for robots used in new applications.

In addition, the emergence of different types of robots, including smaller payload and low cost robots, as well as cobots further contribute to the growth, by complementing the parts of the market where traditional industrial robots have historically been less able to address.

The global industrial robot market declined by 4.3% in 2019 in terms of revenues, whilst growth in unit shipments was flat. The slowing global economy, trade wars and weak demand from the global automotive industry have been the main reasons behind the market slow down. The rate of decline has narrowed and investment in industrial robots is projected to pick-up again in 2020. Over 560,000 industrial robots are forecast to be shipped in 2023 There is a strong trend moving towards more compact and smaller-sized robots in recent years, and this trend will continue during the forecast period.

The growth rate of collaborative robots (CAGR of 27.6% for the period 2018 to 2023) has been leading the robotics industry and is forecast to remain the fastest throughout the forecast period. The big 4 (Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB and Kuka) continue with their dominant position in the market, representing an estimated 56.4% of the world market (in revenue terms) in 2018.

China accounted for a 27.3% revenue share and 43.9% unit shipment share of the global industrial robot market in 2018. Interact Analysis forecasts that the China market will account for half of industrial robot unit shipments in 2023. Japan represents over 50% of global robot production, but capacity and output in China continues to increase. Competition and the economies of scale associated with robot manufacturing will further bring down the cost of industrial robots.

“Although the industrial robot market has faced certain headwinds which have challenged its growth, there are clear signs that the industry is diversifying and putting the foundations in place for significant future growth, making this one of the more exciting spaces to operate in” comments the report author.

Labor shortages and the drive to improve efficiency mean that China will be the fastest growing region for cobot shipments. The demand for simple, cost-effective, entry-level robots, together with regulations surrounding industrial equipment in China has fueled the growth of Chinese cobot manufacturers who only supply their local market. This has arguably distorted the market figures. Growth outside of China is still forecast to rise at a CAGR of over 30% in the next 5 years.

Maya Xiao, lead analyst on cobots at Interact Analysis, says: “The collaborative robot market is still relatively immature, but Interact Analysis has identified clear potential growth areas, both in industrial and non-industrial settings, enabling manufacturers to respond effectively, and take full advantage of what we predict to be an area which will occupy a significant market share in the coming years”.

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