The Robotic Industries Association reported today that North American orders of robot units for 2019 were up slightly compared with 2018, but overall revenues declined last year. The fourth quarter of 2019 posted the weakest numbers of the year, the association stated.
For 2019, 29,988 robotic units were ordered, representing a 1.6% increase when compared to units ordered in 2018, the RIA said. The largest driver of the growth was a 50.5% increase in orders from automotive OEMs, and a 16.6% increase from companies in the plastics and rubber industry. Across other markets, orders were down, including automotive components (-6.6%), food & consumer goods, life sciences, and semiconductor/electronics. Revenues for 2019 were $1.681 billion, a 1.3% decline when compared to 2018, the RIA reported.
The fourth quarter of the year also represented the weakest quarter of the year, with 6,094 robotic units ordered, valued at $374 million. This represents a 10.4% decline in orders and 4.2% decline in revenue compared to Q4 2018. The third quarter of 2019 showed flat to modest growth in orders and revenue, with 1% increases when compared to 2018 numbers.
“While 2019 was a challenging year, and the outlook for growth in 2020 is murky, we’re still seeing growing interest in automation technologies and solutions that will lead to continued future growth,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of the RIA and its parent association, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).
In September 2019, the International Federation of Robotics forecast flat growth from 2018 to 2019 in the number of installations of industrial robots, but also forecast 10% growth in 2020, and then 12% growth in 2021 and 2022.
In its 2019 World Robotics report, the IFR noted weakness in robot installations in the electrical/electronics industry, representing a 14% decline from 2017 to 2018 (2019 numbers will likely be reported in September). The IFR cited a substantial decrease in global demand for electronic devices and components, as well as the U.S.-China trade crisis, as reasons for the decline.
“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” said Junji Tsuda, president of the IFR at the time of the report (Steven Wyatt was elected as IFR president in December 2019). “The U.S.-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments … The IFR’s longer term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth – with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”