While we continue to see reports about the growing fear of job loss due to robotics in the workplace, more industry analyst reports shed light on the apparent upside opportunities for vendors. ABI Research identified ‘collaborative robotics’ as one of the fastest growing market segments.
Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMBs) are driving the increased demand for these collaborative robots, as ‘cobots’ provide solutions that allow for a more flexible kind of manufacturing that makes no assumptions as to volume levels or types of products being manufactured.
Robotics technology market development
From 2016 to 2025, the global revenue of collaborative robotics shipments is set to reach a compound average growth rate of 49.8 percent — that’s compared to 12.1 percent for Industrial robots and 23.2 percent for commercial robotics.
The term ‘collaborative’ refers to human scale robotic systems that can share a workspace with humans, interact with humans while also moving independently from them, and can physically contact their co-workers safely.
This opens the value of robotics — including strength, precision, and repeatability — to a series of tasks that previously their bulk prohibited.
The collaborative robotics market is still young, with global revenues reaching about $292 million in 2017. However, by 2025, that figure is set to exceed $1.23 billion in global revenue, and hundreds of thousands of shipments.
This is being driven by demand for manufacturing solutions that don’t include large-scale investment in fixed automation or larger robotic arms. These include tasks like machine-tending, quality control, and light assembly.
The manufacturing sector is the current mainstay of collaborative robotics. According to the ABI assessment, SMBs within the manufacturing sector will be responsible for the explosive cobot growth going forward.
“Up until recently, a large percentage of SMB’s, particularly manufacturers, have missed out on many of the benefits of robotic industrial automation such as increased productivity, quality, and overall competitiveness,” said Rian Whitton, research analyst at ABI Research. “Rapid change is underway.”
Fuelled by growing demand, established industrial robotics companies and several new vendors are providing products and services specifically designed to satisfy the needs and support the culture of SMB’s – a sizable and underserved market.
SMBs require flexible automation solutions that can easily and quickly be adapted to meet shifting demands. They need systems that can be programmed easily and quickly and can support multiple types of automation tasks. Collaborative robots fit the bill for SMBs.
Outlook for robotic applications growth
Geographically, by far the largest market for collaborative robotics will be the Asia-Pacific region, with a projected 68 percent market share of shipments by 2025. Europe and North America will host 30 percent of shipments in the same year.
“Industrial robotics has been a critical component of advanced manufacturing for many decades, but with collaborative robotics, automation and cooperation between man and machine will move out of production onto the factory floor and into the warehouse,” concludes Whitton.