On the heels of a strong year in 2012, the North American robotics market recorded its best year ever in 2013 for robot shipments, according to new statistics from industry trade group Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
According to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based RIA, a total of 22,591 robots valued at US$1.39 billion were shipped to companies in North America in 2013, beating the previous record of 20,328 robots valued at US$1.29 billion shipped in 2012 – representing growth of 11 per cent in units and seven per cent in dollars. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, RIA said, the totals are 25,772 robots valued at US$1.57 billion.
But while robot shipments set record highs in 2013, new orders fell. “A total of 21,562 robots valued at US$1.34 billion were ordered from North American companies in 2013, representing a decrease of five per cent in units and ten per cent in dollars from 2012,” RIA said. “While the 2013 totals for robot orders represent a contraction from 2012, they remain the second highest annual figures ever recorded for North America.”
The top industries in terms of units ordered in 2013 were life sciences (+73 per cent) and food and consumer goods (+67 per cent). “While the highly cyclical purchases by automotive companies contracted in 2013 for robotics, we saw strong growth in non-automotive industries,” said Alex Shikany, director of market analysis for RIA. “The total number of robots ordered for use in non-automotive industries grew 22% over 2012.”
In terms of applications for robot orders, increases were seen in assembly (+61 per cent), material handling (+13 per cent), and coating and dispensing (+5 per cent).
The robotics market in North America ended 2013 on a strong note, RIA added. New robot orders in the fourth quarter of 2013 totaled 5,831, the third highest quarterly total ever recorded since RIA began recording data in 1984.
RIA estimates that some 228,000 robots are now at use in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use, with “a very large segment of small and medium sized companies…just now beginning to seriously investigate robotics.”