China leads globally in deployment of industrial robots

Zainab Sa'id, Abuja

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The latest report published by the International Federation of Robotics (IRF) reveals that China has taken the lead globally in the installation of industrial robots, with the operational stock having tripled over the past ten years.

A record number of 553,000 industrial robots were newly installed last year, as the global operational stock climbed to 3.9 million by the end of 2022, reports Harrison and Hunter Agency Partners.

According to the IFR, Asia leads the way in the shift to automated processes with 73 percent of newly deployed robots. China, in particular, installed industrial robots at breakneck speed.

For a decade, China has been the world’s largest industrial robot market, and in 2022, installations of industrial robots rose to 290,258 units, replacing the previous record of 2021 by growth of 5%.

This accounted for more than 50 percent of newly installed industrial robots worldwide, quickly catching up with industry leaders South Korea and Japan, who had the highest density of robots installed per 10,000 workers in the manufacturing industry in 2021.

To serve this dynamic market, domestic and international robot suppliers have established production plants in China and continuously increased capacity. On average, annual robot installations have grown by 13% each year (2017–2022).

Since 2017, the operational stock of industrial robots has been increasing by 13% on average each year. China’s operational stock of industrial robots, which had been growing impressively by 25% on average each year since 2017, exceeded the one-million-unit mark in 2021 and 1.5 million units in 2022, when it grew by another 22%.

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Annual installations have been at record levels for three years in a row now: in 2022, annual installations of 290,258 units (+5%) replaced the previous record of 275,303 units in 2021.

Despite being the world’s foremost user of robotics, China isn’t complacent. Robots continue to be pivotal in the country’s ongoing efforts to build a modern industrial system and to promote new industrialization, a task directly linked to the Chinese National Congress in 2022 making high-quality development a national priority.

There are three key elements in the ongoing transformation of Chinese industrial manufacturing: scientific and technological innovation, nurturing talent, and green initiatives.

Facts on industrial automation in China:

  • China has been the world’s largest industrial robot market since 2013 and accounted for 52% of total installations in 2022 (Source: IFR World Robotics 2023)
  • Most of China’s robots are used by the electronics industry (32%) and the automotive industry (26%) (Source: IFR World Robotics 2023)
  • Most of China’s robots are deployed in handling operations (43%), welding tasks (23%) and assembly applications (16%) (Source: IFR World Robotics 2023)
  • China’s potential workforce is predicted to steadily decrease and in the years 2023-2043 the country will lose 143 million workers (Source: UN Population Prospects)