Robots are still coming — though their advance has lost a bit of steam.
The number of robots installed by companies in the U.S. dropped last year for the time since 2015, according to data from the Association for Advancing Automation that was seen by Reuters. Fewer robots were bought as American manufacturing slowed, a result of China and the U.S. battling over trade and slower global growth.
Robots sold to U.S. factories and warehouses fell 16% last year to 23,758 robots. Shipments dropped in Mexico by 25% to 3,263, while Canadian installations were unchanged at about 3,000.
Still, the robotic advance is probably just taking a short break, Alexander Shikany, vice president of the Association for Advancing Automation, told Reuters. Orders for new robots in North America, an indication of deliveries in the months ahead, climbed 1.6% last year to 29,988, Shikany said.
Orders from carmakers jumped 50% and were the biggest growth driver, according to Shikany. Helping boost growth is General Motors’ plan to spend $2.2 billion to build electric trucks and autonomous electric vehicles at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.
A leading indicator of industrial activity, the Institute for Supply Management survey, climbed into expansion territory for the first time in six months in January after an interim China-U.S. trade accord bolstered optimism in the economy. Economists worry that the outbreak of the coronavirus in China may lead to a renewed slowdown in activity.
- Robots haven’t stopped the move of manufacturing to developing countries from places such as the U.S. and Europe, but low-cost destinations can’t count on this trend to continue, according to Brookings.
- Robot analysts outperform their human counterparts on Wall Street when it comes to investment picks over the long run, according to a study from Indiana University.
- Asian countries taking the lead in adopting robots could face social disorder if they don’t take action to help low-skilled workers that can lose jobs to the new technology, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.