WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Robot shipments are expected to jump 39 per cent from 2018 to 2022 from a record annual sales level of US$16.5 billion (S$22.7 billion) last year, according to the World Robotics report.

More than a third of global installations were in China and the top five countries hold 74 per cent of the market. Japan, Korea, US and Germany round out this group. China’s investment in robots reached US$5.4 billion last year.

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” says Junji Tsuda, president of the International Federation of Robotics. “The US-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments.”

More than 420,000 robots were installed last year and that figure is expected to jump to 584,000 by 2022. In 2013, the number of robots in place was 178,000.

In terms of robot density, or number of robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees, Singapore and South Korea hold a considerable lead in highly-automated industrial production.

The 2018 total annual global robot sales value of US$16.5 billion excludes software.