Few conversations or panels at the recently completed ARC Industry Forum touched directly on discrete automation. That is, with one notable exception. Robotics. Several people brought up a surge in orders for industrial robotics.
Aside from human-robot collaboration, not much has been exciting in the industrial space. I keep hoping for some advances using some of the innovation being explored in the consumer space.
But I looked up the latest from the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and learned that robot orders and shipments in North America set new records in 2015. A study of the numbers, though, reveals that the drivers were the same old drivers–automotive industry with coating/dispensing, material handling, and spot welding leading the charge.
Industrial Robotic Sales
A total of 31,464 robots valued at $1.8 billion were ordered from North American companies during 2015, an increase of 14% in units and 11% in dollars over 2014. Robot shipments also set new records, with 28,049 robots valued at $1.6 billion shipped to North American customers in 2015. Shipments grew 10% in units and nine percent in dollars over the previous records set in 2014.
The automotive industry was the primary driver of growth in 2015, with robot orders increasing 19% year over year. Non-automotive robot orders grew five percent over 2014. The leading non-automotive industry in 2015 in terms of order growth was Semiconductors and Electronics at 35%.
According to Alex Shikany, Director of Market Analysis for RIA, the fastest growing applications for robot orders in North America in 2015 were Coating and Dispensing (+49%), Material Handling (+24%), and Spot Welding (+22%). RIA estimates that some 260,000 robots are now at use in North American factories, which is third to Japan and China in robot use.
The recent record performance by the robotics market in North America is concurrent with falling unemployment. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate in the United States reached 4.9%, its lowest level since February of 2008.
“Today there are more opportunities than ever before in the robotics industry,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. “The continuing growth in robotics is opening many new job opportunities for people who can program, install, run, and maintain robots. In fact, if you look closer at the jobs discussion, automation is helping to save and create jobs. A lot of companies tell us they wouldn’t be in business without robotics and related automation.”
Burnstein noted that the RIA and its sister group AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, are seeing the impacts of the growth in demand for automation in upcoming events like the International Collaborative Robots Workshop and The Vision Show, slated for May 3-5, 2016 in Boston.
“Collaborative robots are the hottest topic in robotics today, and we are expecting a strong turnout in Boston for the workshop,” he said. “With interest in vision and imaging at an all-time high, AIA expects its flagship trade show, The Vision Show, to draw record attendance this year,” Burnstein added. Visit Robotics Online and Vision Online respectively for more information on these two collocated events.