North American robot sales drop again in Q2

Sept. 13, 2023
While the labor shortage and reshoring are still pushing companies to automate, the U.S. economy and high interest rates are slowing adoption.
A3 Logo 6464ddf2dbab2

Robot sales declined in North America for the second straight quarter, reflecting the slowdown in the U.S. economy and high interest rates, according to a report from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). 

Companies ordered 7,697 robots valued at $457 million from April to July 2023, a 37 percent decline in orders and a 20 percent drop in value over the same period in 2022.   

Combined with first-quarter results, the market is down 29 percent compared to the first half of last year, with a total of 16,865 robots ordered. Robot sales set a record in 2022 with 44,196 robots ordered, up 11 percent over the previous record in 2021.  

“Over the last five years, we’ve seen a steady acceleration of robot orders as all industries have struggled with a labor shortage and more non-automotive companies recognize the tremendous value automation provides,” said Alex Shikany, VP of membership and business intelligence for A3. ”After this post-COVID surge, however, we’re seeing a drawback in purchases, exacerbated by the slow economy and high interest rates. While many companies continue to automate, others just don’t have the capital to invest right now.”  

The ongoing labor shortage, especially in manufacturing (down another 2,000 jobs in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) remains a key driver of automation, along with reshoring.   

“Record attendance at trade shows such as Automate in Detroit this year show even greater interest in robotics and automation than ever before, but as these numbers show, not all are ready or able to pull the trigger just yet,” A3 President Jeff Burnstein said. “When the economy improves, however, the companies who have learned about the latest innovations in automation and how they can help them increase productivity, deal with labor shortages and get to market faster will be ready.”  

The strongest demand in Q2 came from the semiconductor and electronics industries, followed by life sciences/pharma and biomedical, plastics and rubber, and metals, with automotive components, food and consumer goods, and automotive OEMs showing the biggest drops.  

Read more about how automation can help with your labor shortage in Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing’s eBook.