Drives and Controls Magazine
UK enters the global top 15 for sales of industrial robots
Published:  28 October, 2021

The UK became one of the world’s 15 largest markets for sales of industrial robots last year, after a long absence from the league, according to a new analysis by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The number of industrial robots installed in the UK rose by 2,205 (8%) during 2020 to reach a total of around 23,000 (6% more than in 2019), but the country was still outside the global top 20 in terms of robot density – the number of robots installed per 10,000 industrial workers.

The automotive industry is still by far the largest user of industrial robots in the UK, with sales to this sector rising by 16% to 875 machines during 2020, representing 40% of all industrial robot installations in the UK.

The food and beverage industry almost doubled its number of installed robots from 155 in 2019 to 304 in 2020 (a rise of 96%). This sector has traditionally had a large number of foreign workers, often from Eastern Europe, but is now facing substantial labour shortages as a result of Covid-19 travel restrictions and Brexit.

The IFR expects the demand for industrial robots in the UK to grow “strongly” at double-digit percentage rates during 2021 and 2022. It predicts that Government tax incentives will accelerate the modernisation of UK manufacturing industry.

The UK’s 2,205 new robots in 2020 were still about ten times fewer than the number shipped in Germany (22,302), about four times fewer than in Italy (8,525) and less than half the number shipped in France (5,368).

The world’s 15 largest markets for industrial robots in 2020 (numbers sold in 1,000s) Source: IFR

“The United Kingdom has a strong manufacturing industry that has surprisingly low annual robot installation counts,” comments IFR president, Milton Guerry. “Both, the automotive and the general industry need to invest in automation technology to keep up with international competitors.”

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