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North American robotic orders record second-highest quarter ever

The robotics market in North America posted its second-highest quarter ever in terms of robots ordered in first quarter 2014, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group. Written by MA Staff

A total of 5,938 robots valued at $338 million US were ordered by companies in North America in first quarter 2014, coming in just shy of the all-time record of 6,235 robots valued at $385 million US in fourth quarter 2012. Units ordered grew one per cent, while order dollars fell one per cent when compared to first quarter 2013 figures. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 6,491 robots valued at $372 million US.

“RIA is thrilled to see many new companies adopting robotics and realizing the benefits of automation, as evidenced by the strong start in 2014,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA.

The automotive industry is still the largest customer for robotics in North America, representing 58 per cent of total orders, but non-automotive industries have continued their rapid growth. The top industries in terms of growth for first quarter 2014 were food and consumer goods (up 91 per cent), plastics and rubber (up 55 per cent) and life sciences (up 36 per cent).

“Robotics for use in non-automotive industries is a hot topic right now,” said Alex Shikany, director of market analysis for RIA. “In total, the overall number of robots ordered for use in non-automotive industries grew 18 per cent over first quarter 2013,” he added.

In terms of applications for robot orders, sizeable increases were seen in coating and dispensing (up 24 per cent) and assembly (up 18 per cent).

RIA estimates that some 228,000 robots are now being used in United States factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.

“Many observers believe that only about 10 per cent of the U.S. companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” Burnstein said. “A very large segment of small and medium-sized companies who may have the most to gain are just now beginning to seriously investigate robotics.”