South Korea leads the globe in fast rising industrial robot numbers

20 July 2018 3 min. read

South Korea has the highest density of industrial robots according to data from the International Federation of Robotics, with the dawn of Industry 4.0 marking a significant global rise in robot numbers which is expected to further accelerate.

Since the beginning of the decade, the number of new robots installed worldwide per year has more than tripled from 116,000 to 350,000 due to increasing industrial automation and the advent of artificial intelligence technologies. And the agency which has collated these figures, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), expects this nearly 350 percent growth rate to jump again in the coming two years.

According to IFR estimates, there was a shade above 2 million industrial robots in use across the globe in 2017. By 2020, the IFR projects there will be more than 3 million, with over 520,000 new robots being added per year and a growth rate that shows no signs of slowing in the following decade. Altogether, the 2020 projection represents a doubling of global industrial robot stock in under seven years, and almost three times the operational number since just 2008.Number of industrial robots installed globally by yearIn density terms, the absolute number translates to a rise in the global average of 66 to 74 robot units per 10,000 employees between 2015 and 2016. And, according to the IFR, South Korea, which has led the category since 2010, has by far away the highest density of any nation; at 631 units per 10,000 workers or nearly nine times the global average, well ahead of the next densest geography of Singapore with 488 per 10,000. South Korea, too, has roughly ten times the population of Singapore with some 50 million residents.

Joining South Korea and Singapore at the top of the density tables, is Japan in fourth (following Germany) with a density figure of 303. And while Japanese manufacturing accounts for more than half of the global robotics supply (in an industry worth $2.2 billion, with China and South Korea chipping in ~$200 million a piece of the global worth), Japan’s national density figure has actually declined in the last recorded period.Industrial robot density per countryAsia, also, despite its robotics giants at the top, has a regional average density figure below the global average, with 66 units per 10,000 employees compared the 99 unit average in Europe. The continent, however, is on the automation march, with the fastest growth rate globally for industrial robot instillations at 9 percent – compared to 5 percent in Europe. Not unexpectedly, the Chinese economic juggernaut is fuelling much of this growth, with its robot density figure rocketing from 25 units in 2013 to 68 just three years later. The government is targeting 150 by 2020, as well as a four-fold boost in robotics manufacturing.

Along with the projected 15 percent global average annual growth in industrial robots by 2020, the IFR is forecasting a potential 25 percent surge in professional services robots. The President of the IFR, Junji Tsuda, said; “We see a number of trends that will fuel a broader adoption of robots across new geographies, industries and applications… Developments in AI mean we can expect robots to perform increasingly effectively as human assistants, not only understanding and answering questions as they do today, but also acting on voice commands and gestures.”