Job Shortages Pandemic Record-Breaking North American Robot Orders for the first nine months of 2021 valued at US $ 1.48 billion, are breaking a record high in 2017.
Order numbers are 37 percent higher than the same period in 2020, from 21,072 to 29,000 units, and a 35 percent value jump, from $ 1.09 billion to $ 1.48 billion, according to figures released by the Automation Society. Promotion (A3) Friday, a trading group for the automated ecosystem.
A3 added in the third quarter alone, that North American companies posted significant gains, with year-over-year orders up 32 percent, to 9,928, and order value up 35 percent, to $ 513 million.
“With labor shortages across manufacturing, logistics and almost every industry, companies of all sizes are increasingly turning to robotics and automation to stay productive and competitive,” A3 President Jeff Burnstein said in a news release.
“As our latest statistics show, sales are on track to make 2021 the biggest year ever for robotics orders in North America,” he said.
“We see many current users expanding their application of robotics and automation across their facilities,” he said, “while for the first time robotics users are emerging in a wide range of industries such as automotive, agriculture, construction, electronics, processing food, life sciences, metallurgy, warehousing and much more. “
Pandemic as an Accelerator
The pandemic is now a significant accelerator for automation, observed Scott Lincione, a former member in economic studies at the Cato Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.
“It’s not clear why, but we’ve seen a significant reduction in capital spending on equipment, and especially industrial robots, over the last year or so. It looks like it will continue, “he told TechNewsWorld.
“It now makes sense that a shortage of workers is driving companies to look at ways to drive sales to fewer workers,” he said. “That inevitably leads to automation.”
Daniel Castro, vice president of the Institute of Information Technology & Innovation, a public research and policy organization in Washington, D.C. noted that the pandemic has led to greater automation in some sectors.
“In terms of robotics, we have seen everything from sanitary robots in airports and hospitals to robots that flip burgers,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Part of this change is due to higher wage pressures, which make robotics and automation businesses better value,” he said.
“The rest,” he said, “is because businesses recognize that automation can help make digital or hybrid workforces more efficient.”
Beyond Auto Industry
Carl Doeksen, global robotics / automation director for the 3M Abrasive Systems Division, explained that Covid-19 has helped the company gain a greater appreciation of automation.
“The pandemic highlighted the benefits of automated processes – from the ability to ramp up and increase production quickly and efficiently, to help improve the lives of our employees, customers and families,” he said in a release news.
3M is an example of robotics gaining ground outside the automotive industry, which has been the leading adopter of the technology for years.
A3 reported that in the first nine months of 2021, automotive-related orders increased 20% year-on-year to 12,544 units ordered. But non-automotive orders outpaced that growth, expanding 53% to 16,355 units ordered.
This was only the second time that non-automotive orders exceeded automotive-related orders in the first nine months of a year. The first was in 2020.
A3 added that in the third quarter of 2021, nearly two-thirds of sales came from non-automotive industries, further demonstrating the trend for robotics to grow in areas outside of automotive OEMs and tier suppliers.
Inequality of income
While rising robot sales and the use of automation are good news for robot manufacturers and companies, it could be a mixed bag for workers, according to the World Economic Forum.
In October, he was warned that the pandemic and automation could be a double whammy for workers and could help widen the income inequality gap if displaced employees are not retrained to enter new professions.
He noted that for the first time in recent years, job creation has not kept pace with job destruction, a factor set to hit disadvantaged workers with “particular ferocity”.
Castro, however, argues that robotics and automation will not lead to a greater income inequality.
“Higher wages contribute to greater automation and higher wages are good for workers,” he said. “And we don’t have to worry about running out of jobs: this is the lump of the job fallacy.”
He recognized, however, that worker retraining and safety nets are important for workers in transition.
“Too often,” he explained, “unemployment policies, such as unemployment insurance, aim to get people back to work as quickly as possible. Sometimes, that’s not always the best idea.”
“They’d better take the time to learn new skills,” she added.
Brings exciting times
A3 Vice President of Membership and Business Intelligence Alex Shikany noted that historically, as robotics sales have increased, there has been increased productivity and increased employment.
“Robots are tools that keep companies active and globally competitive. So it’s a good thing when the sales numbers are this size,” he told TechNewsWorld.
For example, he continued, from 2010 to 2020, 235,000 new robots were shipped to the United States. Over the same period, 1.4 million jobs were added in the manufacturing sector and the unemployment rate went from 10% to less than 4% before the pandemic.
“Robotics and automation are tools that allow humans to do better jobs,” he said. “They make companies more productive and profitable and willing to expand globally, so they need to hire more people in a variety of new roles to help support that expansion. We still see that opportunity, even in these unique times “.
He added that automation, as a sector itself, is booming with career opportunities.
“Companies in the sector are growing exponentially and they need people,” he said. “They are telling us that they want to hire people in careers that often don’t require four-year degrees. Some companies hire people fresh out of high school and are training them on the job.
He recognized, however, that the industry needs to do a better job of raising awareness of careers and creating a path through connections with technology schools, colleges and universities.
“We are in a unique and exciting time in robotics,” he noted. “The number of customers ordering robotics is increasing rapidly.”
“Historically, a small number of companies were responsible for a large number of orders,” he continued. “This is changing. There is now a larger set of companies ordering more robots. “
“We are at the gates of very exciting times for US and North American companies,” she added. “There are problems, like supply chain problems, that are affecting everyone. How this will affect the automation industry remains to be seen, but the opportunity is there for robotics. “
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