Robot sales rise due to increased automation, COVID-19 pandemic

Professional service robot sales increased by 32% worldwide from 2018 to 2019 and the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase sales even more.

By International Federation of Robotics (IFR) October 28, 2020
Courtesy: International Federation of Robotics (IFR)

Sales value of professional service robots increased by 32% to 11.2 billion U.S. dollars worldwide (2018-2019) according to a report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The COVID-19 pandemic will further boost the market.

In terms of value, the market value of logistics robots sold or leased was up 110% to $1.9 billion. Almost all of the logistics turnover was generated with robots for indoor use. Autonomous mobile robots have initially been used in warehouses but with digitalization of production, they are also part of today’s smart factory. Therefore, a continued strong turnover growth of 40% or more per year seems possible.

“The investment in service robots for logistics in manufacturing processes is amortized rapidly,” said IFR President Milton Guerry. “Assuming 24 hour operation, the investment in service robots for logistics may be repaid within 2‐3 years and often much quicker. Given a 15 year lifetime, operating costs are around 5% of the annual investment. Highly developed systems often provide operational availability in the 98% plus range.” 

Medical robotics accounts for 47% of the total professional service robot turnover in 2019. This was mainly driven by robotic surgery systems, which are the most expensive type in the segment. Sales hit a new record of 5.3 billion U.S. dollars – up 28%. By 2022, medical robot sales have the potential to more than double by reaching 11.3 billion U.S. dollars. About 90% of medical robots are from American and European suppliers.

The trending robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) business models lower the hurdle for customers to automate with robots. The benefit is not to invest in hardware, so the companies have no fixed capital, no fixed costs and no need for robot operators. The use of logistics systems in non-manufacturing industries has been strongly driven by warehouse solutions for major e-commerce companies. A strong potential can also be found in hospitals running their logistics with the help of professional service robots. In the segment of professional service robotics, about 90% of the sampled logistics robots were produced in Europe and North America – about 10% in Asia.

The segment of field robotics consists of robots for agriculture, dairy, livestock farming and other field applications. Sales value increased by 3% to USD 1.3 billion U.S. dollars. The COVID-19 pandemic might have an impact for further supply of such robots. Travel restrictions for workers from Eastern Europe for instance, who usually travel to Western Europe in harvest season, caused a shortage of labor supply. Farmers might compensate this with the use of field robots. Sales value growth rates of more than 30% for agricultural robots seem possible. 

– Edited from an IFR press release by CFE Media. See more robotics stories.

International Federation of Robotics (IFR)