Some 21,235 robots valued at $1.2 billion were ordered from North American companies in the first nine months of 2014, an increase of 35% in units and 22% in dollars over the same period in 2013. The totals for the first three quarters of 2014 established a new high watermark for the industry, surpassing previous highs only recently reached, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) Ann Arbor, Mich.
Topping 2013 numbers is all the more impressive when you consider that robot sales globally last year were “by far the highest level ever recorded for one year”, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Frankfurt, Germany which summed up the industry’s performance succinctly in the report’s title: “2013: The highest number of industrial robots ever sold.”
Gardner Business Media, Inc., publisher of Plastics Technology tackled the broader industrial automation segment in this special supplement.
The RIA reported that shipments to North American customers through September totaled 18,490 robots valued at $1.1 billion, also breaking the previous record set in 2013 by five percent in units and two percent in dollars.
RIA said that automotive is leading the way, with orders in that sector up 48% year to date over 2013. Other strong segments cited were electronics, food & consumer goods, and metals, which all posted double-digit growth in the first nine months of the year.
The IFR report noted that the rubber and plastics industry has increased robot installations in every year going back to 2009, more than doubling from about 5,800 units to 12,200 units in 2013. The IFR also noted, however, that this performance is still far below the peak years of 2006 and 2007, which neared 15,000 units.
China became the biggest robot market in 2013 according to IFR, with a share of 20% of the total supply. Japan, China, the U.S., Korea and Germany accounted for about 70% of the total robot sales in 2013. Growth in the U.S. has been outpacing many other regions, according to the IFR, with annual sales increasing by an average of 18% per year between 2010 and 2013. The report links this growth in the U.S. to “the necessary modernization of the domestic production facilities.”
That modernization is apparent in the most recently released data from SPI’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES). In the second quarter, CES also saw an uptick in robotics demand—the auxiliary equipment segment, which includes robotics, temperature control, materials handling, and more, had record levels of new bookings in the second quarter. The total of $108.0 million represented a 21 percent spike compared with the second quarter of 2013.
Robots and Jobs
Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA pointed out in its most recent report that the rising demand for robots in the U.S. can be linked to employment, just not in the way you might think:
“It’s also interesting to note that as robot sales boom, U.S. unemployment continues to fall, and is currently at its lowest level since July of 2008, further evidence that robotics helps save and create jobs.”