Shipments of robots fell 16 percent in the United States to 23,758 in 2019, according to the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Robot shipments also fell in Mexico last year, declining 25 percent to 3,263, while shipments in Canada roughly held steady at just over 3,000 units, Reuters reported.
Alexander Shikany, vice president of the Association for Advancing Automation, said the slowdown is likely to be short lived. Orders for new robots in North America, a separate measure that gives a sense of how many machines will be installed in future months, increased last year by 1.6 percent to 29,988 units, Alexander Shikany noted.
The driver of that growth was a more than 50 percent increase in orders for robots from automakers. Automakers are making robots part of their investment in the next wave of automotive technology.
No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors announced it was investing $2.2 billion to build electric trucks and autonomous electric vehicles at its Detroit-area plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.
Hytrol Conveyor, a privately held company in Jonesboro, Arkansas, that produces conveyor belts and had sales last year of over $200 million, did not cut back on robot installations in 2019.
Hytrol Conveyor spent $1.9 million last year to help automate its assembly line to address demand from e-commerce businesses and other warehouse operations.
David Peacock, president of Hytrol Conveyor, said the company realized three years ago it would have trouble keeping up with demand growth without more robots.
The investments have not cut jobs. Headcount at Hytrol Conveyor’s factory has increased 18 percent over the past three years to 1,300 workers. Revenues, meanwhile, are up nearly a quarter.
The latest IDC report said worldwide spending on robotics systems and drones will increase at 17.1 percent to $128.7 billion in 2020. IDC expects this spending will reach $241.4 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.8 percent by 2023.
China will be the leading region for robotics systems with $43.4 billion in spending in 2020. United States will be the largest region for drones in 2020 at nearly $5.7 billion in spending, IDC said in January.