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From boom to gloom: Sudden dip in US robot orders

From boom to gloom: Sudden dip in US robot orders
From boom to gloom: Sudden dip in US robot orders

The US robotics market took a downturn during 2023, with robot orders dropping by approximately 30%. This follows after record sales during the 2021 and 2022 quarters. 

According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), robot purchases increased steadily over the past five years, despite industries struggling with labor shortages. 

This decline in robotics orders, while anticipated by industry analysts, causes a ripple effect across sectors. It includes manufacturing and the automotive sector, as well as logistics and e-commerce.

2023’s slump in robot orders

Alex Shikany, vice president of membership and business intelligence at A3, says there’s been a “drawback in purchases” after the post-COVID-19 surge. Shikany says the slump can be attributed to “the slow economy and high interest rates.”

Shikany explains that many companies are unable to invest capital “despite their struggle to find workers willing to do many of the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs that remain unfilled.”

The US has been struggling with an ongoing labor shortage across manufacturing sectors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The COVID-19 pandemic was cited as a “major disruption in America’s labor force.”

Labor shortages in the US 

According to A3’s previous analysis, the downturn started during the first quarter of 2023. At the time, companies in North America ordered 9,168 units. In addition, total robot sales reached $597 million during the first quarter – 10% from 2022’s first quarter. 

Out of those sales, 68% came from automotive customers – approximately 5,659 robots purchased. Non-automotive (such as consumer goods, electronics, plastic, rubber, pharmaceutical, etc) decreased by 42%.

This has been referred to as The Great Resignation. More than 47 million workers quit their jobs in 2021, followed by another 50 million in 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the trend has “gradually subsided,” with only 30.5 million resigning as of August 2023. 

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Despite the recent dip in sales, A3 president Jeff Burnstein says there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The stats show that 2023 “ended with both an increase over the previous quarter and a nearly equal number of sales from automotive and non-automotive companies.”

Burnstein says these are promising signs “that more industries are becoming increasingly comfortable with automation overall.” 

He says orders are likely to increase: “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.”

Statista corroborated this in August 2023. The US could “generate the highest revenue in the robotics market, with projections indicating a figure of US$7.85 billion in 2024.”

The boost would likely be spearheaded by service robotics, with a projected market volume of US$7.20 billion during the same period. Service robots are used for cleaning, sanitation, inventory tracking, security patrol, and similar use cases. 

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About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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