May 6, 2021

FANUC A3reportQ12021 400x275Substantial increases in robot orders from the metals sector, pharmaceuticals, food and consumer goods helped drive a 20% increase in North American robot orders during the first quarter of 2021, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) reported today. The Q1 2021 numbers were also the second-largest quarter ever for non-automotive sector robot sales, as companies recovering from COVID-19 slowdowns realize that robotics and automation can help them recover.

According to A3, North American companies purchased 9,098 units valued at $466 million in Q1, with non-automotive companies purchasing 28% more robots over Q1 2020 and automotive OEMs and component suppliers combined seeing a 12% increase year-over-year. The strong quarter was the second-best start to any year on record (2017) and the second-best quarter on record for non-automotive orders, behind Q4 2020. The A3 reported in January that non-automotive sectors surpassed automotive robot orders, as sales of robotic units in North America increased 4% in 2020 over 2019 orders.

A3 said sectors showing the highest growth in orders included metals (up 86%), life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomedical (up 72%), food and consumer goods (up 32%), and other non-automotive industries (up 12%).

“Robot sales have increased considerably as more and more companies in every industry recognize that robotics and automation can help them compete globally,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “While advances in robot technology, ease of use, and new applications remain key drivers in robot adoption, worker shortages in manufacturing, warehousing, and other industries are a significant factor in the current expansion of robot use that we’re now seeing. COVID didn’t create the move toward automation, but certainly, has accelerated trends that already were underway.”

North American Robot Orders

The A3 said while robotic purchases from automotive manufacturers can be highly cyclical, the increase in non-automotive sectors appears to be promising for the growth of the robotics and automation industry overall.

“We expect increasing demand for robotics and automation to continue in North America and throughout the world after the pandemic has ended,” said Burnstein. “We also expect that the increased use of automation will help companies be better prepared to face any future pandemics.”

The A3 includes more than 1,100 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end-users, research groups and consulting firms from around the world that drive automation forward. A3 hosts the Automate Show & Conference, scheduled for June 6-9, 2022, in Detroit, Mich. More details on A3 are available at its website.