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US robot sales plummet by 37% in Q2 of 2023

01 September, 2023

The slow US economy and high interest rates are being blamed for a 37% drop in the number of industrial robots ordered in North America from April to July 2023, compared to same period in 2022. When combined with a fall in first quarter, the robotics market in North America was down 29% for the first half the year, with a total of 16,865 robots being ordered.

According to the latest figures from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), North American companies ordered 7,697 robots worth $457m during the second quarter of 2023 – a 20% drop in value compared to the same period in 2022.

The first-half decline in sales follows record sales in the previous two years. In 2022, North American companies ordered 44,196 robots – 11% up on 2021, which held the previous record.

Another notable development in the second quarter of 2023 was that non-automotive customers ordered more robots than automotive buyers, with 52% of the robots sold going to non-automotive industries, and 48% going to automotive OEMs and component suppliers. However, both sectors were down compared to the second quarter of 2022, with non-automotive orders falling by 21% and automotive orders by 49%.

The strongest demand in Q2 2023 came from the semiconductor and electronics industries, followed by life sciences/pharma and biomedical, plastics & rubber, and metals. The biggest drops were in food & consumer goods, and the automotive sector.

“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 recognise the tremendous value automation provides,” says Alex Shikany, A3’s vice-president of membership and business intelligence. ”After this post-Covid surge, however, we’re seeing a drawback in purchases, exacerbated by the slow economy and high interest rates.

Despite a record attendance at the Automate show in Detroit in May, orders for robots have plummeted in the US

“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 ongoing labour shortage in the US, especially in the manufacturing sector remains a key driver of automation. An increasing trend towards reshoring tasks to North America is another contributing factor.

“Record attendance at trade shows 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,” comments A3 president, Jeff Burnstein. “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.”

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