Robot shipments also set a new record, with 6,997 robots valued at $369.2 million being shipped to North American customers in the opening quarter. This represents exceptional growth of 60% in units and 24% in dollars over the same quarter of 2014. Both orders and shipments in the opening quarter beat the previous record for the first quarter last set in 2013.
"It's exciting to see the dynamic growth that continues in the robotics industry," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. "With a record-setting performance in 2014 and a great start in 2015, more and more companies are realizing the benefits of automating their operations."
Automotive-related orders continued to drive the market's performance in the first quarter. Robot orders from the automotive components industry increased 66% in units, while orders from automotive OEMs grew 6%. Other notable growth areas included life sciences (10%) and metals (7%). The hottest applications in the first quarter by number of units ordered were material handling (33%), spot welding (26%), and coating and dispensing (9%). The RIA estimates that some 235,000 robots are now at use in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan.
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR; Frankfurt, Germany) released a global report on robotics at its meeting in Chicago in March, noting that 2014 saw 225,000 units sold globally, up 27% from 2013. The drivers were automotive (#1) and electronics (#2).
The rubber and plastics industry has continued increasing the number of robot installations since 2009 from about 5,800 units to 12,200 units in 2014. However, notes the IFR, that is still below a peak of almost 15,000 units in 2006 and 2007 prior to the recession.