Industry news

After a two-year decline, the demand for industrial robots in Europe has bounced back to reach an all-time high. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), 2021 was a record-breaking year for robot sales across the continent – and globally.  

In this blog, we’ll look at the figures in detail, and compare Europe with the rest of the world across industries.

A strong recovery in Europe

According to the IFR, year-on-year robot sales in Europe increased by 15% in 2021 to reach 78,000 units. That puts the market ahead of its previous peak in 2018 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The automotive industry saw the highest number of robot installations, but the biggest driver of growth across the continent was in metal and machinery with a 50% increase in demand for industrial robots. 

Sales of robots in Europe by industry:

  • Automotive 19,300 units (+|- 0%) 
  • Metal and machinery 15,500 units (+ 50%) 
  • Plastics and chemical 7,700 units (+ 30%) 

PALpack’s Managing Director, Dave Wood, said: “These impressive sales figures are an indication that the Covid-19 slump is behind us, and we can look forward to continued growth in this area. 

“The rapid uptake in robotics globally is yet another reminder that if UK manufacturers want to stay competitive, they can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to adopting new technology,” he added. 

Robotics figures globally

A similar success story for robotics was seen across the rest of the world in 2021 with the biggest demand in Asia/Australia. Unit sales reached 354,500 there, which represents a 33% increase on the previous year.  

Asia remains the world’s largest user of robots with a 73% market share globally. 

In the Americas, 49,400 units were sold – a 27% increase on the previous year – but only the second best year for the region after a bumper twelve months in 2018 when they installed 55,200 units.

Regional breakdown of sales:

  1. Asia/Australia 354,500
  2. Europe   78,000 
  3. Americas   49,400

What this global picture shows us is that Europe, while behind Asia, is still forging ahead when it comes to embracing automation.

Industry-related robot sales

Growth in robot sales was seen across all industries globally, but some areas outperformed others. Sales in the electronics industry stepped up by 21%, overtaking the automotive industry as the biggest consumer of robots. 

Other industries shaped up well too:

  • Metal and machinery 57,000 units (+38%) 
  • Plastics and chemical  22,500 units (+21%) 
  • Food and beverages 15,300 units (+24%) 

This diversification of customers partly explains why the robotics industry is doing so well.

Robotics sales – the takeaway

What’s striking about these figures from the IFR is not how many units have been sold by industry or region but the overall steep increase in the adoption of new technology. 

It’s the clearest sign yet that manufacturers are meeting the increase in consumer demand by finding new ways to boost output without relying on labour. With a global shortage of skilled people to fill vacancies, robotics is offering a more efficient way to do business.