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Published in Manufacturing
Report: North America had strongest year of robot sales as non-automotive sectors join in adoption STOCK PHOTO

Report: North America had strongest year of robot sales as non-automotive sectors join in adoption

BY Wednesday, February 02, 2022 02:00pm

North America had its strongest year of robot sales to date as manufacturers continue to accelerate their adoption of advanced technology and automation on their shop floors, according to new data.

In a report released today by Ann Arbor-based Association for Advancing Automation (A3), sales figures show that North America had $2 billion in robot sales in 2021. The 39,708 units sold throughout the continent signified a 14-percent increase compared to 2017, when the industry set the previous watermark. This year also brought a 28-percent rise in sales from last year.

While the automotive industry has long been ahead of the curve in implementing robots, a surge in demand from non-automotive sectors buoyed the recent growth, according to the report. In fact, non-automotive orders now represent 58 percent of North American sales totals.

“More industries recognized that robotics could help reverse productivity declines and fill repetitive jobs human workers don’t want,” A3 President Jeff Burnstein said in a statement. “It is no longer a choice whether to deploy robots and automation. It’s now an absolute imperative. As we’ve long believed — and users continue to confirm — robots help companies compete, ultimately creating more jobs to handle their growth.”

The metals industry had the most explosive rise in orders for robots, jumping 91 percent from 2020 to 2021. Food and consumer goods also saw a 29-percent increase in orders.

“Improvements in technology, new financing models and simpler applications continue to be positive trend lines leading into 2022, in particular helping small companies automate and join the global stage,” Burnstein said.

The rise in robot sales even comes as automation professionals have pointed out a severe shortage in units.

“We’ve seen quotes for robots with an unknown ETA, or they’re talking about over a year,” Shawn O’Farrell, area lead for manufacturing technical services at Zeeland-based engineering, consulting and product development firm Disher Corp., recently told MiBiz.

“And these are not custom or specialized pieces of tech. These are commercial robots that are in facilities all across the country,” he added. “They’re just not making enough of them, and that shortage in the supply chain has definitely impacted their ability to deliver.”

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