February 10, 2016

Material handling firms drive record robot orders

Orders rose 24 percent in 2015 for robotics in material handling systems.

By Ben Ames

Businesses are buying robots for warehouse and distribution center applications at a faster pace than ever, helping push robot orders and shipments in North America to record levels in 2015, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) said today.

Material handling applications helped drive that demand with a 24-percent increase in orders over 2014, second only to coating and dispensing applications, which saw a 49-percent year-over-year increase, the trade group said.

North American robot-making companies took orders for 31,464 robots valued at $1.8 billion during 2015, an increase of 14 percent in units and 11 percent in dollars over 2014. Shipments to North American customers rose 10 percent, to 28,049 robots. Shipment value increased 9 percent, to $1.6 billion.

Ranked by industry, the automotive sector was the primary driver of growth, with orders increasing 19 percent year-over-year, compared to a 5-percent rise in orders from nonautomotive firms. Among nonautomotive companies, the semiconductors and electronics field led the charge with a 35-percent jump in orders.

Despite the increased demand, rising robot applications are not displacing human employees, but are instead helping create jobs to repair and maintain the machines, the RIA says.

"Today there are more opportunities than ever before in the robotics industry," RIA president Jeff Burnstein said in a statement. "The continuing growth in robotics is opening many new job opportunities for people who can program, install, run, and maintain robots. In fact, if you look closer at the jobs discussion, automation is helping to save and create jobs. A lot of companies tell us they wouldn't be in business without robotics and related automation."

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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