Study: North American companies boost spending on industrial robots

North American companies increased spending on industrial robots in the second quarter, even as many businesses remained tight-lipped about other types of investment amid a protracted trade war with China.

The firms ordered 8,572 robots in the second quarter, up 19% from a year earlier, according to the Association for the Advancement of Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Robot sales have increased in much of the economic expansion as the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in decades and factories continue to add workers – Larger companies are using robots to add a job difficult.

When combined with the first quarter, orders for industrial robots this year are up 7.2% to 16,448 units. However, the value of those robots fell 1.3% to $ 869 million from a year earlier.

The average price of robots continues to decline as businesses shift towards buying a new generation of smaller, more flexible machines that are now coming to market. The falling cost is one reason more businesses are adopting technology.

Engineering Vickers Inc, in New Troy, Michigan, is a company that has poured money into cars. The company, which mainly automotive parts, bought its first robot in 2006, but now has 37.

“Our prime number has hit the last 10 years” from 160 to 190 employees, said Matt Tyler, the company’s CEO and owner.

But the mix of workers today is different, with many more doing technical work such as programming and modeling machinery and fewer workers tasked with simple manual tasks, such as loading and unloading machines.

“Our research shows that over the past 22 years, with each period that robot sales increased, unemployment in the US decreased. And conversely, when robot sales decreased, unemployment increased,” Jeff Burnstein wrote in a study for Association for the Advancement of Automation.

Investments are evident at a time when many economists say businesses have become tougher on other spending. Last year’s tax cuts were meant to unleash a business spending boom. But after an initial surge, costs have fallen./


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