North American companies bought a record 44,200 robots in 2022, up 11% from the previous year. A significant portion of these machines are deployed to build electric car and battery plants.
The companies are predominantly based in the U.S., but they include firms from Canada and Mexico. According to industry association A3, the value of all robots sold to companies was $2.38 billion, up 18% from 2021.
Many firms are scrambling to find staff in the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. since 1969, said A3 President Jeff Bernstein. He believes companies are looking to automation as a quick fix for labor shortages.
Bernstein noted that at the end of the year, researchers recorded a marked slowdown in demand for robot purchases. The number of orders declined from companies in all industries except automotive, he said.
A shift away from consumption habits during the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role in the drop in orders. Bernstein cited the example of Amazon, which has suspended construction of new warehouses, meaning that the company has canceled or postponed purchasing automation solutions.
Since the beginning of 2021, auto companies and their suppliers have announced new plants for electric cars, batteries and battery recycling at a total cost of $160 billion, according to a report by research group Atlas Public Policy.
Most of the robots ordered last year will be used for loading and unloading as well as moving and packing goods in factories and warehouses.