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- The world robot population reached nearly 300,000 in 2016.
- HSBC estimates their population will grow to 414,000 by 2019.
- Currently, robot unit growth is running at 15% per year.
- Demand from China is driving the market.
China is driving the world’s robot market, and suppliers in Europe and Japan who have “superior technology” are the winners, according to a deep dive report on “Global Robotics” by HSBC analysts Helen Fang, Michael Hagmann, Richard Schramm, and Anderson Chow.
Their research note contains an illuminating grid of numbers showing how many robots there are globally, broken down by year and geography. Business Insider turned some of their numbers into the chart above. They show just how dominant Asia is in terms of robotics usage. More than half the world’s robots live in Asia, mostly China, the report says. The world robot population reached nearly 300,000 in 2016, based on the most recent numbers available, and HSBC estimates their population will grow to 414,000 by 2019. Currently, robot unit growth is running at 15% per year. The numbers track robotic assembly arms for factories and rail-guided vehicles, from companies such as Japan’s FANUC and Yaskawa, and Sweden’s ABB.
‘This growth story is being driven by powerful macro forces – higher wage bills, an ageing population, and supportive government policy’
“China is the world’s largest market for industrial robots, accounting for about 30% of global demand. This growth story is being driven by powerful macro forces – higher wage bills, an ageing population, and supportive government policy … We estimate robot production in China rose by 58% in 2017 alone, including the production of lower-tier robotics automation equipment,” the HSBC team told its clients.
The demand has cut the robot world into two halves: China is the dominant buyer of robots globally, while Japan and Europe are the superior suppliers of machines. “Our conclusion is clear – the superior technology of Japanese and European companies is the decisive factor for winning the majority of the new business, which requires ever-greater levels of precision. Chinese robot makers remain strong in the low-to-medium segment of the market – e-commerce driven logistics is a good example – but competition is increasing all the time. In the meantime, the Chinese companies are trying to acquire the technology they need to narrow the gap.”
While China may have the most robots, it is still in catch-up mode compared to the West. The US and Europe are way out in front when it comes to robot usage, as this chart of robot density per 10,000 industrial employees shows. The Chinese government’s policy goal is to close that gap:
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