North American robot sales break record to start 2018
A record number of robots were shipped to North American companies in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group. Both units shipped and shipment revenue achieved record levels. New robot orders decreased over the same period, but still posted the second best quarter ever to begin a year.
Robot shipments reached new heights, with 10,730 robots valued at $507 million shipped to North American customers in the opening quarter of the year. This represents growth of 22 percent in units and three percent in dollars over the same period in 2017. North American customers ordered 8,161 new robots valued at $437 million in the first quarter, which is the second best start to a year ever despite contractions of 17% and 15%, respectively from the first quarter of 2017 (the all-time high).
Growth in non-automotive robot sales
Growth in non-automotive related industries soared in the first quarter of 2018. Notable industries which experienced the most growth, in terms of units shipped, were life sciences (262%), plastics/rubber (130%), and food/consumer goods (64%). Shipments to the automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sector were down 43%, while units shipped to the automotive component industry increased 42%.
Despite decreasing overall, non-automotive robot orders increased as well with life sciences (184%), plastics/rubber (100%), and metals (three percent) leading the way. The decrease in order volume during the first quarter primarily came from a slowdown in automotive OEM sales, contracting 70% in units and 53% in revenue compared to the first quarter of 2017.
RIA estimates 250,000 robots are now in use in the United States good for third-highest in the world behind Japan and China.
"In the past when the automotive market retracted, the entire robotics industry would decrease along with it," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. "The fact that we’re seeing significant growth in non-automotive industries bodes well for the robotics industry as a whole. The automation industry continues to grow robustly as companies invest to increase productivity and quality while boosting competitiveness and also providing opportunities for workers."
Robotic Industries Association (RIA)
– Edited from an RIA press release by CFE Media. RIA is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to improving the regional, national and global competitiveness of the North American manufacturing and service sectors through robotics and related automation. The RIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. See more Control Engineering robotics stories.