A New Robot Density Must Track Global Robotics Growth

In the News
September 11, 2016

How do you determine how advanced a country is when it comes to robotics? One measure, “robot density,” is the number of robots per 10,000 workers. Is it the best way?

Or, robotics organizations can count the number of robotics companies in a country, look at the kinds of innovations coming out of the country, or see what government strategies exist for robotics — if any.

Robot density is one of the easiest ways to find out how big the robotics industry is in a country.

The term made headlines recently when China announced its intention to join the top 10 nations in terms of industrial automation. The country wants to boost its domestic production to 100,000 robots by 2020 and, by the same year, reach a robot density of 150, up from its current level of 36.

Robot density is nothing new. It is constantly used by robotics companies to decide where to expand, invest, and prepare for competition. In 2014, the three global leaders in robot density were South Korea (478 robots per 10,000 workers), Japan (314 robots) and Germany (292 robots).

While robot density remains an important metric, it is an old one. It was created for a time when the main applications for robotics were in manufacturing and heavy industry — perhaps one of the reasons why Germany, Japan, and South Korea lead in this index.

But today, robotics is becoming part of everything. Is it time for a new way to calculate a nation’s rate of robotics adoption and usage? What about a “new robot density,” or NRD?

NRD includes calculations based on the different kinds of robots in a country, instead of assuming that they’re all in manufacturing.

China as an example of new robot density

Take China for example. By 2023, South Korea is projected to have a robot density of 1,000 robots per 10,000 workers. If China raised its robot density to the same level, it would have 11 million industrial robots.

But in 2023, China’s robotics landscape will encompass more than just industrial robots. Baidu Inc., the Chinese version of Google/Alphabet, wants to bring self-driving cars to Chinese roads by 2021.

JD.com Inc., a Chinese digital retailer, is already using drones to deliver goods to people in rural areas. China could also become a major market for household robots, as seen in Chinese appliance maker Midea Group Corp.’s recent bid for Germany-based KUKA Robotics AG.

In a short time, China’s robotic landscape will include multiple kinds of robots, and these should be taken into account with NRD, or we’ll have an incomplete or oversimplified picture of robotics there.

Using NRD in Germany

While Germany is famous for...

Continue Reading