Association for Advancing Automation’s (A3) latest report shows a decline in North American robot orders for the second quarter in a row after record purchases in 2021 and 2022. Companies ordered 7,697 robots valued at $457 million from April to July 2023, a 37 percent decline in robot orders and 20 percent drop in value over the same period in 2022. The association attributes this decline to a sluggish economy and high interest rates, as stated in their press release.
When considering the results of the first quarter, the North American robotics market has seen a 29 percent decrease in comparison to the first half of the previous year, with a total of 16,865 robots ordered. This decline follows a record-setting year in 2022 when North American companies ordered 44,196 robots, marking an 11 percent increase over 2021, the previous record.
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen a steady acceleration of robot orders as all industries have struggled with a labour shortage and more non-automotive companies recognize the tremendous value automation provides,” said Alex Shikany, vice-president of membership and business intelligence, A3. ”After this post-COVID surge, however, we’re seeing a drawback in purchases, exacerbated by the slow economy and high interest rates. While many companies continue to automate, others just don’t have the capital to invest right now, despite their struggle to find workers willing to do many of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that remain unfilled.”
The persistent labour shortage, particularly in the manufacturing sector, continues to be a significant catalyst for automation, says A3. Additionally, the trend of reshoring tasks within North America is contributing to this shift.
“Record attendance at tradeshows such as Automate in Detroit this year show even greater interest in robotics and automation than ever before, but as these numbers show, not all are ready or able to pull the trigger just yet,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “When the economy improves, however, the companies who have learned about the latest innovations in automation and how they can help them increase productivity, deal with labour shortages and get to market faster will be ready.”
In the second quarter of 2023, non-automotive customers ordered a larger volume of robots compared to automotive customers, with 52 percent of units going to non-automotive industries and 48 percent to automotive OEMs and component suppliers. Nevertheless, both categories experienced declines compared to the second quarter of the previous year, with non-automotive orders decreasing by 21 percent and automotive orders dropping by 49 percent. The semiconductor and electronics industries demonstrated the strongest demand in Q2, followed by life sciences/pharma, biomedical, plastics and rubber, and metals. In contrast, automotive components, food and consumer goods, and automotive OEMs saw the most substantial declines.