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Cobot Forecast 2021 – A Return to Rapid Growth

The cruel combination of a global downturn in capital spending in 2019, followed almost immediately by the shockwaves of the pandemic in 2020, has had a huge impact on the electronics and automotive sectors – the two largest industries that rely heavily on robotics and automation. 

However, as 2021 unfolds, the factory robotics market is expected to accelerate strongly in 2021 with a boom in factory automation. By the end of 2021, the installed base of factory robots is set to exceed 3.2 million units – more than double the level in 2015 and still a tiny fraction of the human workforce of 360 million in manufacturing.

As this recovery continues, there will be significant upside and double-digit growth over the next five years, driven by technological advances, the digitisation of production systems, an increase in worker shortages and a significant boost from post-COVID-19 adjustments.

In the second half of 2020 many manufacturers began automating with robots to survive COVID-19, or at least, combat the negative impacts of the pandemic. This trend is expected to increase as we move into 2021 and lead to rapid growth of the industrial robot market.

The pandemic has caused many companies to see the importance of sustainable manufacturing and have switched from manual processes to automated ones with articulated robots. The world’s top industrial robotics providers include Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB, and Kuka (a unit of Midea), which together command nearly 75% of the global market are key players. Fast-growing collaborative robot specialists are also important contributors, which include Universal Robots and OnRobot, a specialist end of arm tooling provider.

Cobots have found great success since their introduction, providing companies large and small, many of which had not previously benefited from robotics automation, with a new class of low cost, flexible automation solutions. They can work with and alongside humans and have slowly and steadily become a critical component of the factory workforce.

However, until now, they were considered a long-term investment that would eventually reap rewards. While the use of collaborative robots has expanded rapidly, becoming the fastest growing industrial robotics sector, the technology still has not completely mainstreamed, partly due to an ongoing need for education, proof points and rigorous ROI analyses.

In 2021, companies who have put their faith in cobots should begin to see a very real ROI. That reality, in combination with the long list of cobot-related innovations that are nearly ready for primetime, will mark a turning point for the cobot marketplace, which is now projected to reach $5.6B by 2027.

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