The number of industrial robots operating in factories around the world reached a record level of 2.7 million in 2019, an increase of 12% over 2018 and an increase of 85% over a five-year period, according to the World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report, released this week by the International Federation of Robotics.

Although there are more robots in action around the world, sales of new robots fell 12% in 2019, IFR said. The decline reflects market conditions in the two biggest industries for robots, automotive and electrical/electronics; the outlook for 2020 and beyond is uncertain, as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to shape the market for automation projects. IFR President Milton Guerry said a recovery to pre-pandemic levels may take until 2022 or 2023.

“… the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed yet,” Guerry said in a statement announcing the findings Thursday. “The remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by [adaptation] to the ‘new normal.’ Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year. China might be an exception, because the coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and the country already started its recovery in the second quarter. Other economies report to be at the turning point right now. But it will take a few months until this translates into automation projects and robot demand.” 

Globally, by annual installations China was by far the biggest user of robots, followed by Japan and the United States. The U.S. is the largest industrial robot user in the Americas, the research showed.


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