Historically, the industrial robotics space has traditionally been dominated by Japanese and European suppliers, while commercial robotics has been a stronghold for robotics start-ups in the US and Europe. However, recent developments show that the robotics industry is booming in China, where thousands of local robotics companies have sprung up.
According to market-forward consulting firm ABI Research, we can no longer ignore some of China’s big robotics companies, such as Segway, AI startup Turing Robotics, Ecovacs, Rokid, and UBTECH Robotics .
China’s top four industrial robot suppliers reported a 20 percent year-on-year increase in sales in 2016, and similar numbers are expected in the coming years. Their Japanese and European counterparts are either shrinking or experiencing single-digit growth over the same period.
Two factors are driving the growth of robotics in China: China’s warehouse robotics companies have been aggressively expanding their business overseas, and China as a whole has made a big push into 5G and artificial intelligence. The rise of Chinese robot suppliers is due to the government’s policy orientation and the heavy investment in R&D by companies.
According to ABI Research, China is expected to become the world’s largest industrial robot market, with total shipments reaching 134,000 units in 2018. To become a leader in robotics, the Chinese government has released guidelines for the development of the robotics industry from 2016 to 2020. Meanwhile, Chinese robotics companies and internet giants have been investing in key robotics technology.
To be sure, it is still very challenging for China’s industrial and commercial robotics suppliers to succeed. Currently, Chinese industrial robot suppliers have only a 30% market share, in addition, Chinese robot suppliers still lag behind in key components. Robot suppliers in China are still sourcing key robotic components from international companies. These critical components are critical to a robot manufacturer’s competitive advantage and cost advantage.
There is still a long way to go before Chinese robotics suppliers fully develop in-house solutions, but given the current momentum, it is only a matter of time.