Global mobile robot shipments reach milestone
- March 28, 2022
There were just over 100,000 mobile robots shipped globally in 2021, the first time this milestone has been reached, according to an Online Robotics magazine report.
The current labor shortage, coupled with strong e-commerce growth, has accelerated manufacturing and logistics companies’ plans to automate, the report states, which has caused sales in mobile robots to spiral, with nearly 70% more vehicles shipped than the year before and a 36% increase in revenues, which rose to nearly $3bn.
“It is regularly claimed that robots will steal jobs from people. But in the post-COVID world we are seeing the opposite: robots are filling gaps left by widespread labor shortages,” the report states.
Mobile robots included in the 10,000 tally include both Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). AGVs follow marked lines or wires on the floor, use radio waves, vision cameras, magnets or lasers for navigation. They are highly used for movement of raw materials. AMRs use on-board sensors and processors to move materials autonomously without any need of physical guides or any other markers. AMRs are so smart that they can recognize and at the same time react to people. They can respond to commands to follow a specific person wherever they need to go.
AGVs are a firmly established technology that has been around for 40+ years. But they have been challenged by AMRs for some time and, in 2021, global AMR revenues of $1.6bn finally surpassed those of AGVs by nearly $300m, the report states. In terms of shipments, almost 18,000 AGVs were shipped in 2021 compared to over 82,000 AMRs. By 2025 this will be 43,000 and 640,000 respectively.
Last year Locus Robotics became the first AMR company in the world to achieve ‘unicorn’ status with a billion dollar valuation.
China accounted for almost 40% of the 100,000 worldwide mobile robot shipments last year. The USA came in second accounting for just over a quarter.
“We expect both countries to maintain those shares up to 2025, when close to 2 million robots will have been installed. The market in general has some obvious drivers, and mobile robots are most attractive in regions that feature a high labor cost, low unemployment, and high e-commerce penetration,” the report states.