Orders may only have inched up by single digits, but the march of the robots continued for 2019 in North America — thanks to big gains from automakers and the plastics and rubber sector.
The Robotic Industries Association said 2019 robot unit orders were up 1.6 percent vs. 2018, with 29,988 robots ordered. Order revenue was down 1.3 percent for the year, closing at $1.68 billion.
Automakers were the big driver, with a 50.5 percent increase in orders from automotive original equipment manufacturers, RIA said.
The rubber and plastics industry generated a 16.6 percent gain from 2018. Investments in automation by rubber and plastics companies rebounded in the second half of 2019, after declining 8 percent in the first half.
But for overall robot spending, the fourth quarter of 2019 marked the weakest quarter of the year, down 10.4 percent in orders and 4.2 percent in revenues from the fourth quarter of 2018.
And although automotive OEMs invested heavily in automation, RIA said orders for the full year to auto parts makers fell by 6.6 percent. All other non-automotive markets declined by single digits, including food and consumer goods, life sciences, metals and semiconductor/electronics.
"While 2019 was a challenging year, and the outlook for growth in 2020 is murky, we're still seeing growing interest in automation technologies and solutions that will lead to continued future growth," said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association and the Association for Advancing Automation.
RIA is part of A3. Both are based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The groups released the 2019 robot numbers on Feb. 13.