As technology improves and as prices fall, professional service robots are increasingly doing jobs formerly handled by human workers.
Revenue from professional service robots reached $2.6 billion, with around 20,000 units shipped in 2015, according to a new report from IHS Markit.
The emerging market for professional service robots is forecast to increase very quickly, with a unit-shipment compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46 percent, from 2015 to 2020, the report says. After 2020, the global market for professional service robot markets will grow even faster, with more robots moving from prototype to commercialization in various applications.
“The various demands on the professional service applications are multi-billion dollar opportunity for the professional service robot markets,” said Wilmer Zhou, senior analyst, manufacturing technology, IHS Markit. “The agriculture industry, logistics, medical and care, and domestic help are the early adoption industries for professional service robots.”
According to the latest IHS Markit Service Robots and Drones Report , automated agricultural machinery is gradually replacing the work formerly handled by farmers. Demand for service robots has increased considerably, especially for agricultural processes like seeding, planting, harvesting, pruning, weeding, picking, sorting, spraying and materials handling.
In the logistics sector, service robots have been largely deployed in automatic warehouses. Exemplified by Amazon’s recent acquisition of Kiva Robotics, large companies are very active in investing in logistics and automated warehouse applications, to reduce the number of workers and increase efficiency.
The medical and healthcare industries are making great progress in service robot deployment. With surgical robot prices falling, and their use in medical operation tasks growing, the medical industry will continue to be one of the fastest growth sectors for robots. As the global population ages – especially in Japan, Germany and other developed countries -- demand for domestic help robots is also growing.
In 2015, unit shipments of professional service robots in North America reached 35 percent, and revenue reached 37 percent of the total global market, the report says.
“North America will continue to lead the medical and care, agriculture, logistics, transportation, and space sectors of the service robot market, because of the country’s abundant innovation resources, including talented people from around the world, large capital funds, leading universities and huge consumer and commercial markets,” Zhou said.
Demand for robots is also strong in Europe, especially in energy, government, civil defence and rescue, maritime, shipping and ports and docks. In these industries, service robots are more expensive and more specialized. “These applications need the service robot companies to cooperate with their customers very closely for customized solutions for dedicated applications,” Zhou said. “Europe has had abundant industry knowledge and specialized professionals for a long time.”
Thanks to their huge consumer markets, professional service robot unit shipments in Asia-Pacific will grow the fastest, at a CAGR of 50 percent from 2015 to 2020.
Japan and Korea will lead in both domestic-help applications and entertainment and education robot applications. China will soon catch up and be the future industry powerhouse, thanks to strong support of the Chinese government.