2023 robot orders down 30% from 2022 in North America, according to A3

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North American automakers pulled back in robot orders last year. Source: A3

North American automakers pulled back in robot orders last year. Source: A3

After two years of record sales, North American robot orders declined by 30% in 2023, said the latest report from the Association for Advancing Automation, or A3. The organization said it expects the slowdown, particularly in automotive manufacturing, to continue until the second half of 2024.

“While robot sales naturally ebb and flow, the return to more typical robot sales after the last two record years can likely be attributed to a few obvious issues: a slow U.S. economy, higher interest rates, and even the over-purchasing of robots in 2022 from supply chain concerns,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3, in a release.

“We’ve seen a slowdown in the manufacturing of electronic vehicles this year, along with fewer new distribution centers, both likely reducing the demand for robots,” he added. “From what we’re hearing in our member surveys and at recent events, however, optimism is strong for growth, potentially picking up in the second half of the year. In fact, we anticipate record numbers at our Automate Show in May as more companies prepare for new automation projects.”

Both automotive, non-automotive robot orders dip

According to A3, North American companies purchased 31,159 robots in 2023, compared with 44,196 ordered in 2022 and 39,708 in 2021. These 2023 robot orders were divided almost equally among automotive (15,723 robots sold) and non-automotive companies (15,436 robots sold). This represented a 34% drop in sales to automotive OEMs and automotive suppliers over 2022 and a 25% total decrease in all other industries.

The strongest demand for robots from non-automotive companies came from the metal industry, followed by semiconductor and electronics/photonics; food and consumer goods; life sciences, pharmaceutical, and biomedical; plastics and rubber, and others, said A3.

While each of these industries showed an overall decline compared with 2022, the last three months of the year saw an increase of 20% in automotive –both OEM and components — and metals, electronics, plastics, and the “all other industries” category over Q3 2023. The “all other industries” category includes companies in areas such as construction, hospitality, and agriculture, which are newer to robotics, said A3.

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A3 is optimistic for late 2024

“While robotic sales were down over the year, 2023 ended with both an increase over the previous quarter and a nearly equal number of sales from automotive and non-automotive companies,” noted Burnstein. “Both are promising signs that more industries are becoming increasingly comfortable with automation overall.”

“While we expect to see automotive orders rise again, there’s little doubt that orders will increase from all non-automotive industries as they recognize how robots can help them overcome their unique challenges,” he said.

Automate expects more attendees

The Association for Advancing Automation’s members include more than 1,280 manufacturers, component suppliers, systems integrators, end users, academic institutions, research groups, and consulting firms worldwide. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based organization said its mission is to be a global advocate for the benefits of automating.

A3 will show the latest technologies at Automate in Chicago from May 6 to 9, 2024. It will feature more than 750 exhibitors of everything from robotics and motion control to machine vision and artificial intelligence for a variety of industries and applications.

In addition to Automate, A3 will host events including the International Robot Safety Conference from Oct. 1 to 3 in Cincinnati; the Autonomous Mobile Robot & Logistics Conference from Oct. 8 to 10 in Memphis, Tenn.; and the A3 Business Forum on Jan. 20 to 22, 2025 in Orlando, Fla.

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