According to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group, 2012 shows to be the strongest year ever.
A total of 22,598 robots valued at $1.48 billion were sold to companies in North America in 2012, beating the previous record of 19,337 robots sold in 2011. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 25,557 robots valued at $1.66 billion.
Compared to 2011, North American orders were up 17% in units and 27% in dollars.
“The Automotive industry has continued to be the strongest driver of the North American robotics market,” says Alex Shikany, director of market analysis, RIA. “Robots sold to automotive OEMs in North America jumped 47% over a then record-setting 2011, while robots sold to automotive component suppliers increased 21%,” he noted.
Sales were also up in metalworking industries (+12%) and life sciences/pharmaceuticals (+3%). In terms of applications, increases were seen in assembly (+40%), spot welding (+37%), arc welding (+24%), coating & dispensing (+13%), and material handling (+3%).
The fourth quarter of 2012 was the strongest quarter ever recorded by RIA (the association began reporting data in 1984) in terms of units ordered, with 6,235 robots sold to North American companies. The fourth quarter was up 9% in units and 21% in dollars over the same period in 2011.
“It is promising to see such positive growth in robotics despite the tumultuous manufacturing environment throughout 2012,” says Jeff Burnstein, president, RIA. “This growth is an indication that more North American companies are looking to automate in order to reduce costs and increase productivity, and that is a good sign for robotics.”
RIA estimates that some 225,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use.
“Many observers believe that only about 10% of the US companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” Burnstein notes, “and among those that have the most to gain from robots are small and medium sized companies.”
What will 2013 hold? Burnstein says RIA does not make robotics sales forecasts but he believes that if the economy remains strong we should be looking at another good year for the robotics industry.
“The increased demand for robotics was evident at this year’s Automate show in Chicago, which had record setting attendance levels,” Burnstein notes. “It is clear that people are excited about automation and the benefits it provides.”