A record 14,135 robots, valued at $788 million were ordered from North American robotics companies in the first half of 2014, an increase of 30% in units and 16% in revenue over the same period in 2013, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group. The second quarter of 2014 was the main driver of the market’s record first half, with 8,197 robots valued at $450 million sold to North American customers. This performance shattered the previous record for a single quarter, exceeding the fourth quarter of 2012 by 31% in units and 17% in revenue.
Since 2010 the robotics market in North America has grown an average of 26% per year leading up to its record setting first half performance in 2014. At the same time, the unemployment rate in the United States has fallen precipitously over this period.
“In 2010, after one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, unemployment in the U.S. was nearing 10%,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. “Since then, amidst record years for robot sales, unemployment has steadily fallen toward pre-recessionary levels. The unemployment rate reached 6.1% in June of this year, the lowest it has been since September of 2008.”
In addition to falling unemployment, RIA states that manufacturing jobs are now returning to the U.S. because of automation. "While we often hear that robots are job killers, just the opposite is true," Burnstein added. "Robots save and create jobs."
The automotive industry had the biggest impact on the second quarter’s performance, with 97% more units ordered over the same quarter in 2013. Non-automotive industries such as semiconductors, life sciences, and food & consumer goods, continued to grow by 22% over the first half of 2013, but the strongest growth came in automotive related industries. Robots ordered from automotive OEM and component industries grew by 36% in the first half of 2014.
“While the automotive industry continues to be the largest customer for robotics, it's great to see non-automotive sectors posting strong growth as well,” said Alex Shikany, RIA’s Director of Market Analysis. “This is a very positive sign for the long term health of the industry.” RIA estimates that some 230,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use.