North American manufacturers started 2022 by purchasing the most robots ever in a single quarter with 11,595 robots sold at a value of $646 million, according to the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Association for Advancing Automation (A3).
The first-quarter figures represent a 28 percent increase in robot sales compared with the same period in 2021 and a 25 percent increase in value over the previous best quarter, which was fourth quarter of 2021, according to an A3 news release.
Robot sales in North America continue to surge across the board, according to the trade organization, which shows unit sales to the plastics and rubber industry up 29 percent from the prior-year period.
Trade group officials expect accelerated adoption across new sectors to be a hot topic at Automate 2022, a trade show and conference scheduled for June 6-9 in Detroit.
"Every industry, including agriculture, construction, retail and hospitality, is now looking at how they can take advantage of robotics to make their companies more successful," Alex Shikany, A3's vice president of membership and business intelligence, said in the release.
He is scheduled to talk about automation and the labor shortage at 1 p.m. June 6 in Detroit.
"These companies recognize what we at A3 have long believed, that robots can not only take over the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that are so hard to fill, but they can save and create jobs as automation helps them grow their business," Shikany said.
While automotive orders remain strong, other sectors are driving the increase in orders overall.
Unit sales to automotive OEMs were up 15 percent while orders from automotive component companies were up 22 percent.
However, in the first quarter of 2022, non-automotive customers ordered 6,122 units compared with 5,476 ordered by automotive-related customers. This trend has been noted in seven of the last nine quarters.
Unit sales to non-automotive industries saw the following increases in Q1 over the same period of 2021: metals up 40 percent; plastics and rubber up 29 percent; semiconductors and electronics/photonics up 23 percent; food and consumer goods up 21 percent; life sciences, pharmaceutical and medical up 14 percent; and all other industries up 56 percent.
Robots are continually becoming easier to use and more affordable, making their adoption attractive to companies of all sizes in every industry, according to A3 President Jeff Burnstein, although there's plenty of room to grow.
"There are hundreds of thousands of companies in North America who have yet to install even one robot," Burnstein said.
A3 represent nearly 1,100 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, academic institutions, research groups and consulting firms from around the world.