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North American robot orders have slowed in the first quarter of 2023 after a record-setting 2022. In Q1 2023, North American companies ordered just 9,168 units, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), down 21% from the same quarter in 2022.
Total industrial robot sales in North America reached $597 million during Q1 2023, down 10% from Q1 last year.
While sales have slowed down in 2023, both 2021 and 2022 were record years for North American robot sales. North American companies ordered 44,196 robots in 2022, an 11% increase from 2021, and much of those sales occurred in the first nine months of the year.
Automotive customers accounted for 68% of all robot orders in Q1, with 5,659 robots purchased. Non-automotive customers, in industries like consumer goods, semiconductors and electronics, plastic and rubber, life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomedical, metals and more, purchased 3,519 robots, down 42% over Q1 2022.
Historically, the automotive industry has been the backbone of robotics sales, but 2020 and 2021 saw huge growth in non-automotive sales. In the first nine months of 2020 and 2021, non-automotive robotics sales topped automotive sales for the first time.
“While inflation and a slowing US economy may have taken a slight toll on robot orders overall, automotive companies continue to accelerate their purchases as they make the transition to manufacturing electric vehicles,” Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, said. “Non-automotive companies are typically newer to automation and may be waiting to invest more until they’ve tested recent deployments or see the economy begin to recover.”
“In addition to labor shortages, we’re seeing many U.S. manufacturers bring more tasks back to North America as international labor costs continue to climb,” said Alex Shikany, vice president of membership and business intelligence. “Many find that the best way to bring manufacturing back quickly is to automate.”
It should be noted A3 only collects sales data on traditional industrial robots. It doesn’t collect data about autonomous mobile robots or collaborative robotic arms. If A3 recorded sales for these types of robots, too, sales numbers would be higher.