China’s interest in automation and robotics reaches new heights

By Catherine Sturman

China is continuing to lead the desire for increased automation and robotics on a exponential scale. From 2018 to 2010, there is now a predicted sales increase by up to 20% within industrial robotics, according to the International Federation of Robotics. The annual sales volume is the highest ever recorded for a single country.

In one year alone, sales of robotics within China have grown by 27% to encompass 87,000 units in 2016, the with the highest level of operational stock globally. “China is by far the biggest robot market in the world regarding annual sales and regarding the operational stock,” said Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “It is the fastest growing market worldwide. There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market.”

The IDC has also recently reported that China’s spending on robotics and related services “are expected to reach $74 billion in 2021. This represents 45.7% of Asia Pacific’s total spending in the next five years.”

Made in China 2025

The figures are not surprising, if we take a look at China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ vision. The country plans to transform into a world leader within robotics, AI, machine learning and manufacturing, strengthening its market position and subsequent economic growth. The move is also supported through China’s focus on improving its current intellectual property rights, in order to remain a leader within these areas, with a focus to enter the top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020.

Electrical and electronics industry are the main drivers

The main drivers of the latest growth in China are the electrical and electronics industry. Sales increased by 75% to almost 30,000 units (2016). About one third of the robots were produced by Chinese robot suppliers, who more than doubled sales by almost 120%. All international robot suppliers also increased sales considerably to the electrical and electronics industry (+59%).

Such impressive demand will further grow in the future. Major contract manufacturers of electronic devices have already started to automate production. The semiconductor and the chip industries, for example, have strongly invested in automation. Large battery production facilities are being installed to meet the increasing demand for electric and hybrid cars.

Car industry lost its pole position

China has become both the world's largest car market and the world’s largest production site for cars – including electric cars - with extreme growth potential. 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 percent per year.

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


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