Canadian Packaging

Robotic sector reaches new highs in 2012

The 2012 North American robotics market sells 3,000 more robots than previous high in 2011.


robotic handshake

Ann Arbor, MI—The North American robotics market has recorded its strongest year ever in 2012, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 22,598 robots valued at US/Cdn $1.48 billion were sold to companies in North America in 2012, beating the previous record of 19,337 robots sold in 2011.

When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 25,557 robots valued at $1.66 billion.

Compared to 2011, North American orders were up 17 per cent in units and 27 per cent in dollars.

“The Automotive industry has continued to be the strongest driver of the North American robotics market,” says Alex Shikany, director of market analysis for RIA. “Robots sold to automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in North America jumped 47 per cent over a then record-setting 2011, while robots sold to automotive component suppliers increased 21 per cent,” he notes.

Sales were also up in:

  • metalworking industries: – +12 per cent;
  • life sciences/pharmaceuticals: +3 per cent);

For applications:

  • assembly: +40 per cent;
  • spot welding: +37 per cent;
  • arc welding: +24 per cent;
  • coating & dispensing: +13 per cent;
  • material handling +3 per cent.

The fourth quarter of 2012 was the strongest quarter ever recorded by RIA (it first reported data in 1984) in terms of units ordered, with 6,235 robots sold to North American companies. The fourth quarter was up nine percent in units and 21 per cent in dollars over the same period in 2011.

“It is promising to see such positive growth in robotics despite the tumultuous manufacturing environment throughout 2012,” says RIA president Jeff Burnstein. “This growth is an indication that more North American companies are looking to automate in order to reduce costs and increase productivity, and that is a good sign for robotics.”

RIA estimates that some 225,000 robots are now at use in U.S. factories, placing the country second only to Japan in robot use.

“Many observers believe that only about 10 per cent of the U.S. that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” notes Burnstein, “and among those that have the most to gain from robots are small- and medium-sized companies.”

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 300 companies, including leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms. RIA’s quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing an estimated 90 per cent of the North American market.

What will 2013 hold? Burnstein said RIA does not make robotics sales forecasts but he believes that if the economy remains strong, it should be another good year for the robotics industry.

“The increased demand for robotics was evident at this year’s Automate show in Chicago, which had record setting attendance levels,” offers Burnstein. “It is clear that people are excited about automation and the benefits it provides.”

For more information on RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or call its headquarters at 734-994-6088.