Decoding North American Robot Trends: Insights from Q1 2023

Delve into the dynamics of North American robot sales as we unpack the trends and insights from the first quarter of 2023. According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the region witnessed a slowdown in robot orders compared to the record-setting performance of 2022.

In Q1 2023, North American companies ordered a total of 9,168 units, marking a notable decline of 21% from the same quarter in the previous year. Concurrently, total industrial robot sales in the region amounted to $597 million, reflecting a 10% decrease compared to Q1 of the preceding year.

While the pace of sales has moderated in 2023, it's crucial to acknowledge the exceptional performance of both 2021 and 2022 in North American robot sales. With 2022 witnessing a remarkable 11% increase in robot orders compared to 2021, it's evident that the momentum was substantial, particularly in the initial three quarters of the year.

The automotive sector continues to serve as a significant driver of robot sales, constituting 68% of all orders in Q1. This translates to 5,659 robots purchased by automotive companies during the period. In contrast, non-automotive sectors, including consumer goods, semiconductors, electronics, plastics, rubber, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, metals, and more, collectively procured 3,519 robots, indicating a substantial decline of 42% over Q1 2022.

The historical dominance of the automotive industry in robotics sales witnessed a noteworthy shift in 2020 and 2021, with non-automotive sales surpassing automotive sales during the first nine months of both years. This trend underscores the evolving landscape of automation adoption across diverse industries.

Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, attributes the resilience of automotive purchases amidst economic challenges to the industry's transition towards electric vehicle manufacturing. Conversely, non-automotive sectors, relatively newer to automation adoption, may exhibit cautious investment behavior until recent deployments are thoroughly tested or economic conditions show signs of recovery.

Alex Shikany, vice president of membership and business intelligence, highlights the dual drivers of automation adoption: labor shortages and the reshoring of manufacturing tasks to North America. As international labor costs escalate, many U.S. manufacturers perceive automation as the optimal solution to expedite manufacturing reshoring initiatives.

It's imperative to note that A3's sales data exclusively covers traditional industrial robots, omitting autonomous mobile robots and collaborative robotic arms. Had A3 included sales figures for these categories, overall sales numbers would likely demonstrate a more robust trajectory.

In conclusion, the first quarter of 2023 presents a nuanced picture of North American robot sales, characterized by a moderation in overall orders juxtaposed with continued momentum in the automotive sector. As industries navigate economic headwinds and embrace automation as a strategic imperative, insights from A3's report offer valuable guidance for stakeholders navigating the evolving landscape of robotics and automation.

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