Record of 3 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world

The World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report shows a record 3 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world, an increase of 10%. Sales of new robots edged up 0.5% despite the global pandemic, with 384,000 units shipped worldwide in 2020. This trend was dominated by positive developments in the Chinese market, offsetting contractions in other markets. This is the third most successful year in the history of the robotics industry, after 2018 and 2017, the International Federation of Robotics said in a press release.

“The economies of North America, Asia and Europe have not experienced their low point of Covid-19 at the same time,” said Milton Guerry, president of the International Federation of Robotics. “Order intake and production in China’s manufacturing industry began to increase in the second quarter of 2020. The North American economy began to recover in the second half of 2020, and Europe followed suit. little later. “

“Global robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow 13% to 435,000 units in 2021, surpassing the record level reached in 2018,” reports Milton Guerry. “Installations in North America are expected to increase by 17% to almost 43,000 units. Installations in Europe are expected to grow 8% to nearly 73,000 units. Robot installations in Asia are expected to exceed the 300,000 unit mark and add 15% to the previous year’s result. Almost all Southeast Asian markets are expected to experience double-digit growth in 2021. ”

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Asia, Europe and the Americas – overview

Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots. 71% of all newly deployed robots in 2020 were installed in Asia (2019: 67%). Installations for the region’s largest adopter, China, rose sharply by 20% with 168,400 units shipped. This is the highest value ever recorded for a single country. The operational stock reached 943,223 units (+ 21%). The million unit mark will be crossed in 2021. This high growth rate indicates the rapid speed of robotization in China.

Japan remained second behind China as the largest market for industrial robots, although the Japanese economy was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic: sales fell 23% in 2020 to 38,653 units installed. This was the second year of decline after peaking at 55,240 units in 2018. Unlike China, demand from the electronics industry and auto industry in Japan was weak. Japan’s operational stock was 374,000 units (+ 5%) in 2020.

The outlook for fiscal 2021 is positive with an expected GDP growth rate of 3.7%. The Japanese robotics market is expected to grow by 7% in 2021 and continue to grow by 5% in 2022. Regardless of the domestic robotics market, major export destinations will supply demand for Japanese robotics. Although a significant portion of production today takes place directly in China, 36% of Japan’s exports of robotics and automation technology went to China. Another 22% of exports were shipped to the United States.

The Republic of Korea was the fourth largest robot market in terms of annual installations, after Japan, China and the United States. Robot installations decreased by 7% to 30,506 units in 2020. The operational stock of robots was calculated at 342,983 units (+ 6%).

The export-oriented economy has so far coped remarkably well in the pandemic. In 2020, GDP only fell by 1%, and for 2021 and 2022 strong GDP growth of + 4% and + 3% is expected. The electronics industry and the semiconductor industry, in particular, are investing heavily. An investment support program launched in May 2021 will further stimulate investment in machinery and equipment. The demand for robots from both the electronics industry and automotive suppliers is expected to increase significantly by 11% in 2021 and by 8% per year on average over the next few years.


Industrial robot installations in Europe fell 8% to 67,700 units in 2020. This was the second year of decline, following a peak of 75,560 units in 2018. Demand from the automotive industry fell further by 20%, while demand from industry in general increased by 14%.

Germany, which belongs to the top five robot markets in the world (China, Japan, United States, Korea, Germany) had a 33% share of total installations in Europe. Italy followed with 13% and France with 8%.

The number of robots installed in Germany remained at around 22,300 units in 2020. This is the third highest number of installations on record – a remarkable result given the pandemic situation that has dominated 2020. The industry German robotics is recovering, driven by strong activity abroad. The demand for robots in Germany is expected to grow slowly, mainly supported by the demand for low-cost robots in general industry and outside of manufacturing.

In the United Kingdom, industrial robot installations were up 8% to 2,205 units. The auto industry grew 16% to 875 units, representing 40% of UK installations. The agri-food industry has almost doubled its facilities, going from 155 units in 2019 to 304 units in 2020 (+ 96%). The food and drink industry had a high proportion of foreign workers, often from Eastern Europe, and faced a massive labor shortage. With Covid-19 travel restrictions being one reason and Brexit another, the demand for robots in the UK is expected to rise sharply at double-digit percentage rates in 2021 and 2022. [struggling to connect] The modernization of the UK manufacturing industry will be boosted by a massive tax incentive. The 2,205 units newly installed in the UK are around ten times less than deliveries in Germany (22,302 units), around four times less than in Italy (8,525 units) and less than half the number in France (5 368 units).

North America

The United States is the largest user of industrial robots in the Americas, with a 79% share of the region’s total installations. It is followed by Mexico with 9% and Canada with 7%.

New installations in the United States slowed 8% in 2020. This is the second year of decline after eight years of growth. While the automotive industry demanded significantly fewer robots in 2020 (10,494 units, -19%), installations in the electrical / electronics industry increased by 7% to 3,710 units. Operational inventory in the United States has increased by 6% CAGR since 2015.

Overall expectations for the North American market are very positive. A strong recovery is currently underway and the return to pre-crisis levels of industrial robot installations is expected for 2021. Robot installations are expected to grow by + 17% in 2021. A post-crisis boom will create additional growth in low double-digit rate 2022 and beyond.


The “boom after crisis” is expected to fade slightly in 2022 globally. From 2021 to 2024, average annual growth rates in the mid single-digit range are expected. Minor contractions may occur as a statistical effect, “catching up” occurs in 2022 or 2023. If this anomaly occurs, it will not break the overall growth trend. The bar of 500,000 units installed per year worldwide should be crossed in 2024.

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Mavis R. Bernier