North American companies added a record number of robots in the first nine months of this year as they scrambled to speed up assembly lines and struggled to add human workers.
Factories and other industrial users ordered 29,000 robots, up 37% from the same period last year, worth $1.48 billion, according to data compiled by the industry group known as Association for Advancing Automation.
This exceeded the previous peak set at the same time period in 2017, before the global pandemic affected economies.
The rush to add robots is part of a larger increase in investment as companies seek to keep pace with strong demand, which in some cases has contributed to shortages of basic goods..
Meanwhile, many companies have struggled to attract workers and have looked to robots as an alternative to adding human elements across assembly lines.
Robots also continue to push into more corners of the economy, and auto companies have long bought out most industrial robots.
But in 2020, the combined sales of other types of businesses surpassed the auto sector for the first time, and this trend has continued this year.
Robots reach more corners of the economy
In the first nine months of the year, auto-related orders for robots grew 20 percent to 12,544 units, according to A3.
While orders from non-automotive companies expanded by 53% to reach 16,355.
The auto sector is not declining, but other sectors from metals to food manufacturers are growing faster, Bornstein said.
Athena Manufacturing, which makes metals for two other plants in Austin, Texas, now has seven robots, including four installed this year..
The company bought its first machine in 2016. It said the machines helped it respond to increased demand, including a 50 percent jump in orders for parts used by semiconductor equipment manufacturers..
The machines also allowed us to transition to a round-the-clock operation for the first time last year. The company employs 250 people, but has been struggling to find workers to fill the unpopular night shift.
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