The Future is Here: How Robots Are Peacefully Overtaking the Major Asian Industries, and What the Further Developments Hold for Us Loading...
Singapore November 14-15

The Future is Here: How Robots Are Peacefully Overtaking the Major Asian Industries, and What the Further Developments Hold for Us

How robots are peacefully overtaking the major Asian industries
How robots are peacefully overtaking the major Asian industries

Nowadays, robots keep becoming increasingly significant part of the everyday human life, and the global industrial sectors are no exception to this: for instance, in 2019 experts estimate that 1.4 million industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world.

Asian countries always take the highest positions in the global robot utilization ratings, not mentioning the fact they’re actually keeping these positions for decades. The tendency becomes even more obvious if we refer to the global industrial robots density ranking, and that’s what became our main source of inspiration for this piece. Today, BlockShow tells you everything about countries with some of the highest industrial robot density rates, having deeply studied each nation’s specificity. Let’s begin!

China: 97 robots per 10k employees

Despite the fact that China’s automation usage density today lags other countries in this list, there is one certain aspect that makes us ask one question: is this tendency really that bad? The thing is, low robot density combined with fewer regulations and lots of manufacturing makes China the most attractive, the biggest and the fastest-growing market for robot suppliers globally. Moreover, what we see now is not a limit: it is expected that the number of industrial robots will increase tenfold to 1.8 million units by 2025.

With hundreds of thousands of industrial robots being purchased by Chinese companies annually, nearly three-quarters of that number is coming from foreign brands, either produced locally or imported from Japan, Korea, Europe, and USA, demonstrating the notable gap between Chinese and the foreign robot makers.

That’s where one of China’s major robotics development directions takes place: moving from using to making. With the governmental efforts to raise the global market share of locally-produced robots to over 50% by 2020, the regional industrial robotics industry size is expected to take unprecedented heights by 2024. According to the experts’ estimates, up to 70% of the robots used in China will be made within the country by Chinese brands, which will increase from 30% now. What’s more to that, experts expect China to become one of the most automated nations globally, with a goal of selling 100k domestically-produced industrial robots.

What about enhancing the robot adoption along with usage density? Well, some decisive actions are being taken to cover this direction as well. Fully realizing the importance of this aspect, as well as aiming to raise the competitiveness of Chinese companies though automation, the state-led “Made in China 2025” initiative has been launched. One of the main elements of its strategy is going to be Robotic Industry Development Plan with a strong focus on increasing the country’s robot density to a target number of 150 robots per 10 000 workers by 2020; to make it possible, according to CRIA estimates, China’s manufacturers will have to adopt over 250k robots – a target, which, according to the researchers, will be met pretty easily.

Japan: 308 robots per 10k employees

We’re not gonna lie: the only country coming to our minds when robots are even mentioned is Japan. As if to to substantiate this little stereotype, Japan took quite a high position in the robot density list; the facts say it all – according to the Industrial Robot Report 2018 recently published by the International Federation of Robotics, Japan is the world’s leading supplier of industrial robots, also being considered as one of the most robot-integrated economies in the world.

Unlike some other countries, Japan’s robotics adoption phenomenon is widely investigated by the Western experts. The researchers are tend to outline several aspects, including some really unusual ones; thus, some of them link that tremendous scale of robot adoption to Shinto, an ancient Japanese religion, according to which every inanimate object is believed to possess some kind of a spirit. Apart from this, the experts often refer to one of the major cultural phenomena of today: Manga and Anime. Any explanations are unnecessary here: we bet anyone reading this is familiar with a popular almost half-a-century-old “the boy and his robot” trope.

However, there are also some other reasons for the robotics industry to prosper, clearly more relevant ones, and there is one particular reason we’d like to elaborate on. For almost 2 decades now, labour shortages keep being one of the major socio-economic issues of the Japanese nation. According to the studies, Japan’s working population has declined by 13% since 1995: now its number is believed to be about 76M out of 126M of the country’s total population. Even though a problem may not seem as big right now, the further shortfall is predicted: Japan’s birth rate is too low to sustain growth.

That’s why an important part of the Japanese automated industry lies in striving to enhance human workforce without fully replacing it or cutting job opportunities. That’s where cobots, collaborative robots, or basically “robot co-workers” enter the scene; being a relatively new development introduced to the global industries roughly a decade ago, first they caused a bit of a misconception – but today, if we talk about Japan, cobots managed to become an indispensable element of many sectors and production chains. Today, inexpensive and easy-to-use cobots are being utilized by many companies to perform some uncomplicated actions and tasks in manufacturing and beyond.

Convinced that cobots are going to play key role in solving the problem of the working population aging, Japanese government has launched Japan’s Robot Strategy focused on increasing robotics adoption in low-productivity sectors such as agriculture, retail, hospitality, healthcare and much more. Well, it seems like we just have to wait and see how it turns out!

Singapore: 658 robots per 10k employees

Inferior only to South Korea, Singapore has boosted its robotics sector back in 2016, when the government has announced the additional $450M to be invested in the National Robotics Programme. Three years later, the positive outcome of this initiative keeps showing up: not only in robotics, but also in industries like automation, 3D printing and AI.

Today, the Singapore government is pushing hard for the robotics adoption. According to the IFR, about 90 percent of Singapore’s robots are installed in the electronics industry; the country itself is using robotics for many other sectors, such as healthcare, construction and customer service.

Even though Singapore exceeds China in robotics implementation and robot density, the city-state’s approach resembles China’s robotics policy a lot – it’s also focused on value creation.

Now, when the robot usage rate is really high in many sectors, most of the actual robots get to Singapore from Japanese, German or Danish manufacturers – value is obviously being added, but definitely not created.

Conversely, value creation means that Singapore will have to build its own robots – the task that is easier said than done. Considering the fact that the segment is already fully taken by all those ‘big players’, major brands whose standards are almost impossible to reach, Singaporean manufacturers will have to seek for alternative approach to take their place on the local market.

Just as always, there is a solution: it lies in surveying both local and regional robotics/automation fields and figuring out some niche solutions the market currently needs. This strategy may bring the city-state the best chance of successfully entering the industry and winning it, especially if Singaporean brands will look out for the whole region or even the global industry instead of Singapore alone.

South Korea: 710 robots per 10k employees

An absolute and irremovable leader in the robot adoption since 2010, South Korea is easily the most automated country on Earth, according to the International Federation of Robotics; the country has a robot density exceeding the worldwide average eight-fold.

Impressive? Definitely. The coolest thing is, the country is not going to slow down and stop there – and here’s what they’re plotting right now.

According to the information that appeared in March 2019, South Korea plans to turn the country’s robotics into a 15 trillion won ($13.3 billion) industry, striving to become the fourth-largest player in the world by 2023. “Traditional manufacturing sectors can be transformed into future industries by making use of robots” – that’s what Moon Jae-in, the President of South Korea, mentioned during the briefing session on the country’s robot development strategy.

Moreover, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has recently announced the upcoming funding of more than 7 000 robots to replace human workforces in the areas of textiles, foods and beverages. It worth noting that no one should be worried about job opportunity shortage for human workers here: the above-mentioned industries have been losing workers already, due to hostile work environments and work intensity.

Of course, all the innovations planned for the future are not going to be implemented without all forms of support; thus, for example, experts will pay full attention to establishing healthy ecosystem for robot businesses – to make this happen, the government plans to prepare special robot integrators able to analyze clients’ needs and provide solutions for automation. Furthermore, Korea is setting the course for gaining independence within the industry, striving to break free of the local industry’s reliance on the US and Japan for key parts and software.