North American robotics shipments grow 11% in 2013, orders down 5%

Despite a slight contraction in overall new orders, the non-automotive industries segment grew 22% -- including 13% growth in materials handling.

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Following a strong year in 2012, the North American robotics market recorded its best year ever in 2013 in terms of robot shipments, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 22,591 robots valued at $1.39 billion were shipped to companies in North America in 2013, beating the previous record of 20,328 robots valued at $1.29 billion shipped in 2012. These new records for robotic shipments represent growth of 11% in units and seven percent in dollars. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 25,772 robots valued at $1.57 billion.

While robot shipments set record highs in 2013, new orders fell. A total of 21,562 robots valued at $1.34 billion were ordered from North American companies in 2013, representing a decrease of five percent in units and ten percent in dollars from 2012. While the 2013 totals for robot orders represent a contraction from 2012, they remain the second highest annual figures ever recorded for North America.

“We are pleased to see another strong year for the robotics market in North America,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA.  “It’s exciting to see companies of all sizes continue to find value in automating with robotics.”

The top industries in terms of units ordered in 2013 were life sciences (+73%) and food and consumer goods (+67%).  “While the highly cyclical purchases by automotive companies contracted in 2013 for robotics, we saw strong growth in non-automotive industries,” said Alex Shikany, director of market analysis for RIA. “The total number of robots ordered for use in non-automotive industries grew 22% over 2012,” he added.

In terms of applications for robot orders, increases were seen in assembly (+61%), material handling (+13%), and coating & dispensing (+5%).

The robotics market in North America ended 2013 on a strong note. New robot orders in the fourth quarter of 2013 totaled 5,831, the third highest quarterly total ever recorded (RIA began recording data in 1984).

RIA estimates that some 228,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use.

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