China breaks global records for automation

Annual sales of robots and automation in China have beaten the highest level ever recorded for a single country – surging by 27% in 2016 to 87,000 units.

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China reportedly intends to forge ahead and make it into the world’s top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020.

China has rapidly become a global leader in automation. Its operational stock of industrial robots has reached the highest level in the world in a shorter time than any other nation.

At the same time, Chinese robot manufacturers have expanded the market share in their home country.

With China currently the fastest growing industrial robots market worldwide, estimates have put an average sales increase of between 15-20% per year from 2018 to 2020.

These are findings have been announced by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), ahead of the publication of its World Robotics Report 2017, due to be released on 27 September.

Electrical & electronics industry

According to the IFR, the main drivers of China’s growth has been the electrical and electronics industry, with sales leaping by 75% to almost 30,000 units in 2016. Around one third of these robots were produced by Chinese supplier, who more than doubled sales by almost 120%.

The significant growth is expected to be maintained with major contract manufacturers of electronic devices already starting to automate production. The semiconductor and the chip industries, for example, have strongly invested in automation. Large battery production facilities are also being installed to meet the increasing demand for electric and hybrid cars.

The electrical and electronics industry may have knocked the automotive industry of its top spot, but it is still a powerful driver for industrial robot sales. China has grown to become both the world’s largest car market and the world’s largest production site for cars – including electric cars, according to IFR, with considerable growth potential.

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Today, Asia’s leader regarding robot density is South Korea, with 531 robot units per 10,000 employees. The UK has just 71 units.

Sales to China made up 25% of the global supply of industrial robots to the automotive industry in 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, a total of 108,000 units were installed, representing an average increase of 18% per year.

Some international automation suppliers have already launched production plants in China and in all likelihood more will follow suit in the coming years. Currently, most of China’s industrial robots are imported from Japan, Korea, Europe, and North America.

Made in China 2025

The Chinese government’s aim to transform China from a manufacturing giant into a world manufacturing power has seen it implement a 10-year national initiative – Made in China 2025.

The plan includes strengthening Chinese robot suppliers and further increasing their market shares in China and abroad. As such, China reportedly intends to forge ahead and make it into the world’s top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020.

By then, its robot density is targeted to rise from 49 to 150 units per 10,000 employees.

Today, Asia’s leader regarding robot density is South Korea, with 531 robot units. In the Americas, it is the US with 176 robot units and in Europe, it is Germany with 301 robot units. The UK is currently a long-way behind at just 71 units per 10,000 employees – among the lowest in Europe.