Robot orders set new record in 2014

The automotive industry was the primary driver of growth in 2014, with robot orders increasing 45% year over year.

Factories in the U.S. and around the world are adding robots to their workforce at a faster pace. That pace is expected to pick up even more over the next decade.

A study from the Boston Consulting Group estimates among the world’s 25 biggest export nations, robot use will grow by 10% a year at manufacturing and industrial companies through to 2025.

Leading the robot charge is cost. The price to automate factory jobs has dropped considerably. The report notes the cost of owning and operating a spot welder is down nearly $50,000 a year from 2005, and should drop another $30,000 by 2025.


Those numbers are big on the bottom line, meaning a cut in labour costs for companies between 22-33%. Right now, only 10% of factory jobs that can be automated are, and BCG predicts by 2025, that number will grow to 23%. It says companies tend to jump into robotics when a cost savings of 15% is realized versus an employee.

Electronics manufacturing is leading the way. The average cost to operate a robot to do routine tasks is about $4 an hour, compared to a worker at $24 and hour.

Another plus for robots is their ability to work in tough conditions, and new technology and sensors make them better able to adapt to unpredictable environments.

A total of 27,685 robots valued at $1.6 billion were ordered from North American companies during 2014, an increase of 28% in units and 19% in dollars over 2013, according to Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

Robot shipments also set new records, with 25,425 robots valued at $1.5 billion being shipped to North American customers in 2014.

Shipments grew 13% in units and 6% in dollars over the previous records set in 2013.

“Record sales performance, groundbreaking innovation, and increasing consumer interest all make the robotics industry so dynamic,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA.

The automotive industry was the primary driver of growth in 2014, with robot orders increasing 45% year over year.

Non-automotive industries also performed well throughout the year, growing seven percent in total over 2013. The standout non-automotive industries in 2014 in terms of order growth were plastics and rubber (25%), semiconductor and electronics (21%), and metals (16%).

The fastest growing applications for robot orders in North America in 2014 were arc welding (+58%), spot welding (+57%), assembly (+16%), and material handling (+11%).

RIA estimates that some 230,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.