2021 UK Robot market report highlights need for investing

[Source: International Federation of Robotics]

A new report on the industrial robot market provides information for UK manufacturers to consider about their competitors. Moreover, the report from the International Federation of Robotics compares the UK robot market with that of similar European economies.

To make it more pertinent, it considers robots installations by country compared to the number of manufacturing workers employed there. Finally, it separates sales to the large automotive sectors that otherwise dominate the statistics.

By value, the UK robot market is the world’s fifteenth largest, but robot density per employee puts it twenty-fourth. This is much lower than most other industrialised countries in Europe and the lowest of the G7 nations. Whilst the automotive industries are big robot users, other UK industries are not – unlike in Europe.


Robot density

The UK robot density of 101 units per 10,000 workers is below the world average of 126 units and ranks 24th. Five years ago, the UK’s robot density was seventy-one units, making an average of 9% growth a year. Whilst 9% per annum growth may sound respectable, it is well below the market and other similar manufacturing countries. The exodus of foreign labour after Brexit also increased the demand for production robots in 2020 and 2021.

Germany is Europe’s most automated country, ranking fourth worldwide with 371 units. In annual supply terms, it had a share of 33% of total robot sales in Europe in 2020. Expectations are for slow robot demand in Germany, but with growing demand for low-cost robots from general industries and outside of traditional manufacturing.

France has a robot density of 194 units (ranking 16th in the world) and is well above the global average of 126 robots. This is like other EU countries like Spain (203 units), Austria (205 units) and The Netherlands (209 units). Another key point is that EU members like Sweden (289 units), Denmark (246 units)  and Italy (224 units), have a higher degree of automation in the manufacturing segment. Slovakia was twentieth with 175 units and the Czech Republic at 162 units.


2021 Robot market | UK robot market must keep up

[Source: International Federation of Robotics]

The UK robot market

The new 2021 Industrial Robots report shows a record of about 23,000 industrial robots operating in UK factories. An increase of 6%. Sales of new robots were up by 8% to 2,205 units in 2020. The automotive industry remains the largest user of industrial robots in the UK. Sales to the automotive sector rose by 16% to 875 units in 2020 and represent 40% of installations.

The food and beverage industry almost doubled its installations from 155 units in 2019 to 304 units in 2020 (+96%). The food and beverage industry had a high share of foreign workers, often from Eastern Europe, and is facing a massive labour shortage. With restrictions on recruiting overseas labour, demand for robots remains an alternative. UK expectations are for strong two-digit percentage growth rates in 2021 and 2022.

“The United Kingdom has a strong manufacturing industry that has low annual robot installation counts,” according to Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “The automotive and also general industry markets need to invest in automation technology to keep up with international competitors.”

“A big driver in the modernisation of the UK manufacturing industry should be the boost from massive tax incentives. Until March 2023, companies can claim 130% of capital allowances as tax relief for plant and machinery investments.”


IFR Report Robot Density nearly Doubled globally (Dec 2021)

IFR presents World Robotics 2021 reports (Oct 2021)