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Robot orders in the second quarter of 2021 were up 67% over the same period in 2020, showing a return to pre-COVID 19 pandemic demand for automation as manufacturers and other North American companies return to business. According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), North American companies ordered 9,853 robots valued at $501 million in Q2 2021, up from 5,196 sold in Q2 2020, the peak of the pandemic.
The Q2 2021 increase, which marks the third-highest quarter on record for robot units sold overall, also showed more than half (5,530) came from non-automotive customers as industries such metals, semiconductor & electronics, plastics and rubber, food and consumer goods, and life sciences recognize the benefits of automation.
“With the big increases in automation sales, and favorable economic conditions in U.S. manufacturing sector throughout much of 2021, it’s clear users have accelerated their orders for robotics and other forms of advanced technologies,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “While companies have long realized that automation increases efficiencies, expands production and empowers human employees to do more valuable tasks, the pandemic helped even more industries realize those benefits. By automating—either for the first time or expanding on how they use automation—companies will be better prepared to handle any upcoming issues that impact their business.”
According to A3, the substantial increases in robot orders in Q2 came from companies in:
- metals (up 99% over Q2 2020)
- automotive components (up 85%)
- semiconductor & electronics/photonics (up 62%)
- plastics & rubber (up 51%)
- food & consumer goods (up 51%)
- automotive OEM (up 49%)
- life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomed (up 21%)
Machine vision, motion control see record growth
In addition to the large increase in robotic orders, machine vision, motion control and motor markets saw record increases over Q2 2020, A3’s report shows. North American machine vision statistics reveal that the market expanded 26% to $764 million, a new record. For January through June of 2021, the North American machine vision market grew 18% to $1.5 billion, which is the best start to a year on record.
The motion control and motors sector recorded $1.065 billion in shipments, 13% greater than Q2 2020 sales and setting a new record. Motors, actuators and mechanical systems and electronic drives saw the largest increases.
“The revitalization of automation we’re seeing across myriad industries is extremely encouraging,” Burnstein added. “Not only will the increase in automation use be a win for our member companies, but it will also help the U.S. economy grow even more as customers increase productivity and fill the millions of manufacturing jobs that remain unfulfilled.”