UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release

[Index]      

2000 - record year for robot investment, increase of 25%

First part of 2001: continued boom in Europe but tumbling in North America and Asia

Geneva, 30 October 2001

 

UNECE issues its 2001 World Robotics survey

 

Below are some of the many questions answered by the newly released survey World Robotics 2001 produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in cooperation with the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The following questions and answers provide an executive summary of this 360 page long in-depth analysis.

  • How many robots are now working out there in industry? Worldwide at least 750,000 units, of which 389,000 in Japan, 198,000 in the European Union and 90,000 in North America. In Europe, Germany is in the lead with 91,000 units, followed by Italy with 39,000, France with 21,000 and the United Kingdom with 12,000.

  • What are the forecasts for 2004? Some 975,000 worldwide, of which 447,000 in Japan, 306,000 in the European Union and 116,000 in North America.

  • How large were the robot investments in 2000? "2000 was a record year with almost 100,000 new robots being installed worldwide, representing an increase of as much as 25% over 1999", says Jan Karlsson responsible for the publication. "47,000 robots were installed in Japan while in the European Union some new 30,000 units were added to the stock, compared with 13,000 units in North America".

  • And for the first half year of 2001? Has the recession hit the robot industry? "Yes and no. In Europe, robot investments continue to boom, showing an increase of 11% over the same period in 2000, while robot investments in North America fell by as much as 28% and by 10% in Asia", continues Jan Karlsson.

  • Why invest in robots? In the last decade the performance of robots has increased radically while at the same time prices have been plummeting. A robot sold in 2000 would have cost less than a fifth of what a robot with the same performance would have cost in 1990. Profitability studies have shown that it is not unusual that robots have a pay-back period as short as 1-2 years.
  • And not hire people? In Germany, for instance, the price of robots relative to labour costs have fallen from 100 in 1990 to 35 in 2000 and to less than 20 when taking into account the radically improved performance of robots. In North America, the relative price had dropped to 26 and to as low as 12 if quality improvements are taken into consideration. "Falling robot prices, increasing labour costs and continuously improved technology are major driving forces which speak for continued massive robot investment in industry", concludes Jan Karlsson. Even in developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and China, robot investments are staring to take off at an impressive rate.
  • How many robots per employee in the manufacturing industry? Almost 300 per 10,000 employees in Japan, 120 in Germany, 95 in Italy, about 80 in Sweden, 60 in France and about 50 in Spain, North America, Switzerland and Benelux (the figure for Japan includes all types of robots while for all the other countries only multipurpose industrial robots are included).
  • In the car industry? In Italy and Germany there is almost 1 robot per 10 production workers.
  • Are we seeing any service robots in our homes? Lawn mowing robots are about to have their commercial breakthrough while the market introduction of vacuum cleaning robots has been delayed until 2002/2003.
  • How are service robots for professional use doing? Medical robots, underwater robots, surveillance robots, demolition robots and many other types of robots for carrying out a multitude of services are doing very well. A stock of some 10,000 units was estimated at end 2000. In the period 2001-2004 another 30,000 units are projected to be added to the stock.

*     *     *

The Facts

World market for industrial robots surged by 25% in 2000...

according to the annual survey World Robotics 2001, just published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in cooperation with the International Federation of Robotics (IFR)

... mainly as a result of skyrocketing sales in Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union

After two years of falling or stagnant sales, there was a sharp recovery in Japan in 2000. Sales of all types of industrial robots surged by 32% over 1999, reaching almost 47,000 units (see table 1 and figure 1).

After plummeting sales of robots in the Republic of Korea during the "Asian crises" in 1997 and 1998, sales had a robust recovery in 1999 and 2000, +70% and +95%, respectively. It should be noted, however, that robot figures for the Republic of Korea and Japan include dedicated industrial robots, which are not included in the statistics of most other countries.

In the European Union, sales of multipurpose industrial robots rose by 20% in 2000 to just under 30,000 units. The highest growth was recorded in Sweden with 56% over the 1999 level, followed by Spain with 39% (see table 1 and figure 1).

Stagnated sales in the United States...

Between 1995 and 2000, the robot market in the United States was booming every second year and, in the years in between, it was flat or falling. In 1995, 1997 and 1999, it increased by between 28% and 37%. By contrast, in 1996 and 1998, the market dropped by 5% and 13%, respectively, while in 2000 it was almost flat (+1%). However, the highest sale of multipurpose industrial robots, in their strict definition, ever recorded was in 2000 when it reached almost 13,000 units.

Europe and the United States are rapidly catching up with Japan

In the early 1990s, installations of multipurpose industrial robots in the European Union and the United States only amounted to about 20% and 7%, respectively, of Japan’s installations of (all types of) industrial robots. By 1999, those shares had risen to 69% and 36%, respectively. In 2000, however, the corresponding shares had dropped to 63% and 28%, respectively, as a result of booming sales in Japan.

First half of 2001 - continued growth in Europe but plummeting sales in North America

Looking at the first half of 2001, the ECE/IFR quarterly survey on the order intake of industrial robots, which includes most of the world's largest companies, showed that the worldwide order intake decreased by 7%, compared with the same period in 2000. This figure, however, hides some major differences between regions.

While Europe still has an expanding robot market (11%), it is plummeting in North America (-28%), mainly because of falling demand from the electronics and telecommunication-equipment industry. In Asia the market is also falling, -10% in the first half of 2001. In the remaining part of the world, the robot market was almost flat (+2%).

 

Table 1

Yearly installations and operational stock of multipurpose industrial robots
in 2000 and forecasts for 2001-2004. Number of units

Sources: ECE, IFR and national robot associations.

a/ Estimated by the ECE and IFR secretariats, for some or for all of the years.
b/ Including the republics of the former USSR.
c/ Included in "Other countries".

 

Figure 1

Yearly installations of multipurpose industrial robots in 1994-1999 and
forecasts for 2000-2003

Figure 2

Estimated operational stock of multipurpose industrial robots in 1994-1999 and
forecasts for 2000-2003

 

Estimate of the worldwide operational stock of industrial robots

Total accumulated yearly sales, since industrial robots started to be introduced in industry at the end of the 1960s, amounted at the end of 2000 to some 1,200,000 units, including, as mentioned before, the dedicated industrial robots installed in Japan. Many of the early robots, however, have by now been taken out of service. The stock of industrial robots in actual operation is therefore lower. ECE and IFR estimate the

total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots at the end of 2000 at between
a
minimum of 750,000 units and a possible maximum of 975,000 units.

The minimum figure above is derived on the assumption that the average length of service life is 12 years. An ECE/IFR pilot study has indicated that the average service life might in fact be as long as 15 years, which would result in a worldwide stock of 975,000 units.

Japan accounts for more than half the world robot stock, largely because the Japanese figures include all types of robots. However, as from 1998, the robot stock in Japan started not only to decline but also to decline at an accelerated rate: 0.3% in 1998, 2.3% in 1999 and by 3.2% in 2000 (see table 1 and figure 2).

In the European Union and the United States, on the other hand, the stock of industrial robots rose in 2000 by an impressive 12% and 13%, respectively.

Forecasts 2001-2004: Sales projected to increase by an average of 7% per year

The world market for industrial robots is projected to increase from almost 99,000 units in 2000 to about 128,000 in 2004, when including all types of industrial robots in Japan, or by a yearly average of 7% (see table 1 and figure 2). Excluding Japan, worldwide sales of multipurpose industrial robots are forecast to surge from 52,000 units to 71,000 units by 2004, a yearly average of 8%.

 

Worldwide sales

2000: 99,000 units 2004: 128,000 units, +7% per year

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Worldwide sales, excluding Japan

2000: 52,000 units 2004: 71,000 units, +8% per year

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Worldwide operational stock

2000: 750,000 units 2004: 976,000 units, +7% per year

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Worldwide operational stock, excluding Japan

2000: 360,000 units 2004: 530,000 units, +10% per year

 

Sales in Japan expected to show steady recovery ...

Growth in robot investment in Japan will be spurred by an increasing demand for replacement investment. Between 2000 and 2004, sales are projected to increase from 47,000 units to about 57,000 units.

Steady growth in Europe but hesitant recovery in North America

The robot market in the European Union is expected to grow from 30,000 units in 2000 to 44,000 units in 2004. In North America, on the other hand, the robot market will plummet in 2001, from 13,000 units to 9,000 units, and is forecast to show only modest recovery thereafter, reaching merely 12,000 units in 2004.

The operational stock of industrial robots continues to expand, except in Japan

In terms of units, it is estimated that the worldwide stock of operational industrial robots will increase from 750,000 units at the end of 2000 to 976,000 at the end of 2004 (see table 1 and figure 2). It is interesting to note that the operational stock of robots in Japan decreased for the first time in 1998. Between 1997, which was the peak year for the Japanese robot stock, and end 2000, it had fallen from 413,000 units to 389,000 units. It is projected to fall to 384,000 units in 2001, after which it will start to increase again.

When excluding Japan, the remaining world operational stock of multipurpose industrial robots is forecast to increase from 360,000 units to 528,000 units in the period 2000-2004.

In the United States, the operational stock of multipurpose industrial robots is forecast to reach 116,000 units in 2004. The projection for the European Union is 306,000 units, of which 141,000 in Germany; 61,000 in Italy; 31,000 in France; and 18,000 in the United Kingdom.

Growth in robot investment is spurred by plummeting robot prices

In the 1990s, prices of industrial robots have been plummeting while at the same time their performance, measured both for mechanical and electronic characteristics, have continuously improved. The most recent ECE/IFR survey, which covers the period 1990-2000, showed the following results:

List price of one robot unit - 43%
Number of units delivered +782%
Number of product variants that can be supplied to customers +400%
Total handling capacity (including gripper module) +26%
Repetition accuracy +61%
Speed of the 6 axes +39%
Maximum reach +36%
Mean-time between failures +137%
RAM in Mbytes +416 times
Bit-size of the processor +117%
Maximum number of axes that can be controlled +45%

In the United States, for instance, prices of industrial robots have fallen from an index of 100 to 37 in the period 1990-2000, without taking into account that robots installed in 2000 had a much higher performance than those installed in 1990 (see figure 3 and table 2). When taking into account quality changes, it was estimated that the index would have fallen to 18. In other words, an average robot sold in 2000 would have cost only a fifth of what a robot, with the same performance, would have cost in 1990, if it had been possible to produce such a robot in that year.

In the same time, the index of labour compensation in the American business sector increased from 100 to 142 (see figure 3 and table 2). This implies that the relative prices of robots have fallen from 100 in 1990 to 26 in 2000, without quality adjustment, and to 12 when taking into account quality improvements in robots.

Robot densities - 1 robot per 10 workers in the motor vehicle industry

Table 3 shows the number of robots per 10,000 persons employed in the manufacturing industry. The first group of countries includes Japan, which collects data on all types of industrial robots and is therefore not comparable with other countries, Singapore and the Republic of Korea, which had robot densities of between 290 and 115. As Singapore and the Republic of Korea both have a much higher proportion of robots with less than 5 axes than other countries, these figures also cannot be directly compared with those of the other countries listed.

The second group was topped by Germany, which had a density of 120, followed by Italy with 95 and Sweden with just under 80 robots per 10,000 employed in the manufacturing industry. In the third group of countries, the density varied between 62 in Finland, France and 51 in Spain. In the fourth group, the densities ranged between 49 in the United States, Switzerland and Benelux and 44 in Austria.

Table 4 shows data on the number of multipurpose industrial robots per 10,000 production workers in the motor vehicle industry. In 2000, the densities varied between 430 and 580 in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and the United States. In Germany and Italy, they were 820 and 840, respectively, or almost one robot for every 10 workers.

Diffusion of service robots

Table 5 gives details about the results of the ECE/IFR survey of sales of service robots, broken down by application areas. As many companies did not provide market data, the figures reported here probably underestimate significantly the true sales amounts as well as the installed base of robots.

Except for domestic robots (so far mainly lawn-mowing robots) and entertainment robots, almost all service robots installed up to 2000 and inclusive are robots for professional use. The major application areas for professional robots are underwater robots, medical robots, demolition robots, mobile robot platforms for multiple use, laboratory robots, and cleaning robots.

Service robots for professional use, installations up to the end of 2000

Of the total number of service robots for professional use installed up to the end of 2000, underwater robots with their 3,000 units accounted for 29%. Thereafter followed demolition robots with 22% and medical robots with 15%. Laboratory robots had a share of 10% while agriculture robots, mainly robot milking systems, made up 6%. Cleaning robots made up another 4% while the aggregate "all other" had a share of about 14%.

As the unit values differ very significantly between various application areas - from some hundreds of thousand of dollars for underwater robots and medical robots to a few thousands of dollars for laboratory robots or a few hundreds of dollars for domestic or entertainment robots - market data, expressed in terms of value in US dollars, might differ quite substantially from market data expressed in number of units. Underwater robots account for over 60% of the total estimated market value, this high share being a result of their high unit value.

 

Figure 3

Estimated price index of industrial robots in the United States,
with and without quality adjustment.
Index of labour compensation in the US business sector

 

Table 2

US index of industrial robot prices (1990 = 100), with and without quality adjustment,
index of labour compensation per employee and hourly wages,
excluding social costs, in selected branches

 

Sources: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

a/ Source: OECD Economic Outlook, December 2000. Data for the year 2000 is estimated.
b/ Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data for 2000 are provisional.

General note: The robot price indices calculated for individual countries are always based on prices of the same seven robot models supplied by four major international robot companies with large market shares in Europe and the United States.

 

Table 3

Number of robots per 10,000 persons employed in the manufacturing industry, 2000

 

Table 4

Number of robots per 10,000 production workers in the motor vehicle industry,
1996 and 2000

 

Table 5

Estimated number of service robots installed up to the end of 2000,
by application areas, and forecasts for the period 2001-2004

 

Sources: ECE and IFR.

a/ Included in "Inspection robots, general".
b/ No information or estimate available.

 

Service robots for personal and private use - installations up to end 2000

Service robots for personal and private use are recorded separately, as their unit value is only a fraction of that of the many types of service robots for professional use. They are also produced for a mass market with completely different marketing channels than those of service robots for professional use.

So far, service robots for personal and private use are mainly found in the areas of domestic (household) robots, which include vacuum cleaning and lawn-mowing robots, and entertainment robots, including toy and hobby robots. Sales of lawn-mowing robots have started to take off very strongly and should continue to see booming sales. The market potential is very large.

Vacuum cleaning robots were supposed to be introduced on the market at the end of 2000. The market introduction is now pushed forward to the first half of 2002. If the technology provides what it has promised, at a competitive price, and if there is a sufficient degree of consumer acceptance, then this can be a very large market with annual sales in the order of 100,000 units.

As for entertainment robots, the figure recorded here might significantly underestimate real sales. The merging technologies of PC and entertainment robots can become a very substantial business area in the near future.

 

Figure 4

Service robots for professional use. Stock at the end of 2000 and
projected installations in 2001-2004

 

Projections for the period 2001-2004 - service robots for professional use

Turning to the projections for the period 2001-2004, the stock is forecast to increase by some 30,000 units, the largest increase being in small cleaning robots for professional use (see table 5 and figure 4). Other application areas with strong growth are medical robots with almost 5,000 new robots being added, underwater robots (3,000), surveillance and security robots (1,800), refuelling robots (1,100) and robotic systems for milking (1,000). These figures should, however, be seen rather as market potentials than actual sales forecasts.

Projections for the period 2001-2004 - service robots for personal and private use

When vacuum cleaning robots are introduced on the market in the first half of 2002, sales could, provided the price is right, take off at such a rate that, by the year 2004, a couple of hundred thousand units or more could have been sold. This forecast is, however, very unsure.

Regarding lawn-mowing robots, a huge increase in sales (more than ten times) is forecast for the period 2001-2004. The market is very "promising" and these kinds of robots are rapidly gaining acceptance from customers. A projection of 40,000 units might very well be far too low. The market for entertainment robots is forecast at some 200,000 units, which also might be far too low.

 

 

The publication World Robotics 2001 - Statistics, Market Analysis, Forecasts, Case Studies and Profitability of Robot Investment is available, quoting Sales No. GV.E.01.0.16 or ISBN No. 92-1-101043-8, through the usual United Nations sales agents in various countries or from the United Nations Office at Geneva (see address below), priced at US$ 120:

Sales and Marketing Section
United Nations
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: (+41 22) 917 26 06 / 26 13
Fax: (+41 22) 917 00 27
E-mail: unpubli@unog.ch

 

For more information about the publication, please contact:

 

Mr. Jan Karlsson or:
Statistical Division
United Nations Economic Commission
for Europe (UNECE)
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: (+41 22) 917 32 85
Fax: (+41 22) 917 00 40
E-mail: jan.karlsson@unece.org

 

International Federation of Robotics (IFR)
Box 5506
S - 114 85 Stockholm
Sweden

 

Phone: (+ 46 8) 782 08 43
Fax: (+ 46 8) 660 33 78
E-mail: ifr@vi.se

 

 

Ref:  ECE/STAT/01/10