North American robot orders declined in the first quarter of 2019 from the first quarter of 2018, but the orders improved from the final quarter of last year, according to a report from the Robotic Industries Association.
First quarter orders totaled 7,876 robots valued at a total of $423 million, a decline of 3.5 percent in units and 3.2 percent in dollars compared to the first quarter of 2018, RIA said.
Total shipments were down even more from the year-earlier period. First quarter shipments were 7,577 units, off 29 percent. The value of robot shipments was $452 million, down 11 percent.
On the plus side, when measured against the final quarter of 2018, orders were up 16 percent and revenues increased nearly 9 percent, according to RIA.
"We are coming off a record year in 2018, so slight declines aren't unexpected and long-term signs remain very healthy," RIA President Jeff Burnstein said.
Burnstein cited a 25 percent gain in attendance for the Automate 2019 show in Chicago in April as a leading indicator.
"Many of the Automate show attendees are just beginning to explore how robotics and automation can help their companies become stronger global competitors. Their expected purchases over the next year or so should help the industry grow going forward," he said.
The Ann Arbor. Mich.-based trade group's next show is the Autonomous Mobile Robot Conference Sept. 17 in Louisville, Ky.
RIA reported the first quarter decline was driven by decreases in orders from automotive component suppliers (down 16 percent), plastics and rubber (down 16 percent) electronics (down 17 percent) and metals (down 17 percent).
There were some bright spots. Orders from automakers jumped 41 percent. Orders from food and consumer goods industries gained 32 percent.