5 Fascinating Facts about the Booming Robot Market

November 6, 2015, 11:16 PM UTC
Starship Technologies' delivery robot
Starship Technologies' delivery robot
Photo Courtesy of Starship Technologies

The robot industry is experiencing a boom period that’s not likely to slow anytime soon.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) released a report this week that said that annual global sales of robots reached a record $10.7 billion in 2014. The authors valued the overall market for robotic technologies, which also includes related software and sensors, at $32 billion for the same year. By 2020, the authors expect the robot market to be worth $83 billion.

The growth comes amid advancements in data analytics, microchips, and sensors. Because of the improved technology, robots are more flexible, powerful, and can perform more complicated tasks like testing tiny circuit boards.

The cost of robots is going down as well, which has made buying a robot more affordable, the authors said. Here are five interesting tidbits from the report:

1. Robots are getting cheaper and more powerful

If you always wanted a robot that can weld but couldn’t afford one, just wait. The price is dropping. In 2005, welding robots cost roughly $182,000. But last year, a similar machine that was more nimble and could better understand its surroundings cost $133,000. Spending $100,000 for a robot today will get you a machine that can do twice as much as a robot 10 years ago that used to cost the price, the report said.

2. China is the biggest buyer of robots

China bought 57,000 robots in 2014, representing a quarter of all robots sold worldwide. This is second year in the row that China led the world in buying robots as it plays catch-up to other countries. In 2014, China had 35 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. But both Japan and Germany have around 300 to 385 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, according to the report. One of the reasons China is buying a lot of robots is because of an aging population and a decline in the overall labor force participation rate, the authors wrote. An influx of robots could help the country’s manufacturing sector compensate.

3. The automotive industry is buying a ton of robots

It takes a lot of work to build cars and trucks. Since 2010, the automotive industry has led all other sectors in buying robots. In 2014, the authors write that auto companies bought almost one out of every two industrial robots sold. They perform repetitive task more cheaply than humans, the authors said. In the U.S., for example, the report said that it costs nearly $25 an hour for a human to spot weld while a robot costs only $8 an hour. On a side note, the authors write that some auto companies value their robots so much, they give them special names. Tesla (TSLA), for example, names some of their robots after famous comic book superheroes like Wolverine and Professor X.

4. Will robots take your jobs? Maybe

You can’t have a report on robots without acknowledging people’s fears that robots could replace them on the job. The authors said that it’s likely robots will replace humans in many industries, pointing to the auto industry, in particular. But new jobs could emerge as robots free people from performing menial and repetitive tasks. This sentiment was echoed at a recent discussion on robotics in the workplace by a panel of robotic experts at this year’s Fortune Global Forum.

5. Millennials are more likely to trust robots to handle their finances

The finance industry is taking advantage of advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence to create so-called robo-analysts, essentially computers that calculate numbers and give financial advice to banking clients. The report said that affluent millennials are more likely to “place a great deal of faith in technology compared to other generations and this is no different in financial advisory services.” Coincidentally, a Bloomberg report on Friday said that Bank of America is developing a robo-advisor that will handle accounts less than $250,000.

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