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Industrial Robotics Boom to Shift Labor, Benefit China, Says Research Firm

Credit: John Shadbolt, via Wikimedia Commons

June 05, 2018      
Paroma Bhattacharya

The market for industrial robotics has grown exponentially lately, as major industry verticals have striven to incorporate future-oriented solutions in their operations. Companies around the globe are interested in automation to help achieve higher productivity and respond to workforce shortages.

As regions around the world take an interest in robotics development for economic growth, expanding applications are pushing industrial robotics market trends further, reports research firm Global Market Insights.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, South Korea has the highest industrial robot density and employs 631 robots per 10,000 human employees. Japan, whose automotive industry is a global leader, deploys 300 robots per 10,000 employees. Even China witnessed a rise in its robot density rate — from 25 robots per 10,000 workers in 2013 to 68 in 2016.

Industrial robotics transformation under way

On an average, the year 2015 saw 66 robots installed per 10,000 workers globally, while the number increased to 74 in 2016. As regional governments are increasingly turning to automation to bolster their economies, we anticipate that the industrial robotics market will undergo a dynamic transformation from 2017 to 2024.

While some companies are focusing on employing robots to speed up their production rate, many others have been using automation to overcome the constraints of rising wages and shrinking labor pools due to an aging population.

This has pushed the industrial robotics market, which is projected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25% from 2017 to 2024. Collaborative robots have become popular across the globe, particularly in Europe. This is because cobots are less expensive, can assist human workers instead of replacing them, and are generally safer than traditional robots. They can even be deployed by smaller companies for simple processes and small batch manufacturing.

Cobots cook up success

For example, Japanese factories use collaborative rbots to shake pepper and cheese powder over pasta arranged in a container by a worker or to stack rice balls in a box — jobs that had often been dismissed as niche by large-scale industrial robot manufacturers.

However, equipped with more sensors, cobots are finding an ever-widening space for industrial applications. Countries looking to promote smart factories are also leaning toward cobots, which would increase their market share in the coming years.

The falling prices of industrial robots have enabled core companies to bring product manufacturing closer to the site of demand. This in turn has led to considerable labor revenue being shifted from overseas locations to the site of industrial bot deployment.

For instance, Chinese T-shirt manufacturing company Tianyuan Garments Co. signed a deal with the Arkansas government to open a factory in Little Rock, Ark. It will employ 400 workers but will be heavily automated. The factory will use machine vision-based sewing robots to produce apparel for Adidas.

While humans will be taking over jobs of robot operation and maintenance, the bulk of the heavy lifting will be done by the AI-operated robots.

On one hand, this novel move is expected to satisfy many consumers who have demanded the “Made in America” label.

However, Tianyuan will be producing T-shirts for 33₵ each, which will be unbeatable even by the cheapest labor markets. Considering that the $20 million factory with its 330 robots will be stitching more than 23 million T-shirts a year, other brands are likely to follow the example set by Adidas, thereby leading to a positive change in the commercialization graph of industrial robotic market.

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China moves from user to maker

It’s also worth noting that China will emerge as the most lucrative hotbed for industrial robot industry in the years ahead. The country has long been known for its manufacturing capacities, and the country’s government is aiming at having 950,300 operational industrial robots by 2020.

In fact, China had been the world’s largest industrial robotics market for four consecutive years. In 2016, China sold a total of almost 90,000 industrial robot units, which was a 27% increase compared with the sales volumes of 2015, representing 30% of the global market.

However, the country’s deployment of industrial robots is comparatively low, with only 68 robots per 10,000 employees recorded in 2016. Recognizing the seriousness of this issue, the Chinese government has undertaken the “Made in China 2025” initiative aimed at upgrading and potentially transforming manufacturing, prioritizing automation and artificial intelligence.

Industrial robotics market -- Global Market Insights

The government has also been trying to raise the global market share of Chinese robots to over 50% by 2020. With such abundantly ambitious initiatives in tow, the regional industrial robotics industry size is expected to soar tremendous heights by 2024.

For a while now, industrial robots have been extensively deployed in the automotive manufacturing industry. However, as technology continues to evolve and robots get smaller, cheaper, and more efficient, we expect the  industrial robotics industry to gain a strong foothold in the electronics space by 2025.

In 2016, this vertical recorded global shipments of around 290,000 units. Driven by the vast expanse of applications and the consistent technological interventions, we anticipate that the industrial robotics market will surpass $80 billion by 2024.

Paroma Bhattacharya

About the Author:

Paroma Bhattacharya is a content developer for the market research industry. She has a degree in journalism and mass communication and creates resources and information-rich content in diverse fields.