North American companies buying more robots to keep up with demand
A 6-axis robotic arm picks up sorting containers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
North American companies boosted spending on industrial robots in the first quarter as they scrambled to keep up with surging demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies ordered 9,098 robots in the first quarter, a 19.6% increase over a year ago, according to the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The orders were valued at over $466 million in total.
Robots were once concentrated in the auto industry but are now moving into more corners of the economy, from ecommerce warehouses to food processing plants. For the first time last year, most of the robots ordered by companies in North America weren’t destined for auto factories or their parts suppliers.
The strongest growth in the latest quarter was to metal producers, where orders surged 86%. Orders to life science, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies rose 72%, while orders to consumer goods companies increased 32%.