Germany is the most highly automated economy in the European Union with around 221,500 industrial robots - the number has increased by 3 percent on 2019 but a drop on the record figures in 2018.
The World Robotics 2020 yearbook from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) shows there are three times as many industrial robots in use in the factories of the German economy as in Italy (74,400 units), around five times as many as in France (42,000 units) and around ten times as many as the UK with 21,700 units, which is behind Poland and the Czech Republic. The pace of automation is predicted to increase as part of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The use of industrial robots in Europe has reached an all-time high of around 580,000 units - the number increased by 7 percent compared to the previous year," said Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Driven by the success story of smart production and automation this is a worldwide increase of about 85% within five years (2014-2019). The recent slowdown in sales by 12% reflects the difficult times the two main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, have experienced.”
Germany's share of the European robot population is 38 percent, putting it fifth globally behind China, Japan, Korea and the USA.
The German economy has been driving automation significantly with around 20,000 units per year through to 2019 at 20,400 robots sold, down slightly from the record shipments in 2018 of 27,000 robots, mainly triggered by investments in the automotive industry.
This accounts for a drop in 2019, and while predictions are for significantly higher growth in automation as part of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, there are still doubts about the speed of the recovery.
"The consequences of the corona pandemic for the economy cannot yet be fully assessed," said Milton Guerry. “The 2020 financial year will be shaped by the fact that the industry is first adapting to the 'new normal'. A strong impetus from major orders is unlikely in the current financial year. China may be an exception. The reason: In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus was identified for the first time in December 2019 and the country was able to recover economically in the second quarter. Other economies are at an economic turning point much later. Accordingly, it will take a few months before positive trends are reflected in new automation projects and robot demand. We expect a recovery in 2021 - but it could take until 2022 or 2023 before the pre-crisis level is reached.”
Next: Automation in Asia and the US, cobot growth