A3 report: North American automation market shattering records in 2017

Results set records in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology.

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The North American automation market set new records through the first nine months of 2017, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a global advocate for the benefits of automating.

For the first nine months of 2017, 27,294 orders of robots valued at approximately $1.473 billion were sold in North America, which is the highest level ever recorded in any other year during the same time period. These figures represent growth of 14% in units and 10% in dollars during the first nine months of 2016. Automotive-related orders are up 11% in units and 10% in dollars, while non-automotive orders are up 20% and 11%, respectively.

For shipments, 25,936 robots valued at $1.496 billion were shipped in North America during the first nine months. These record high quantities represent growth of 18% in units and 13% in dollars over what sold in 2016. Automotive-related shipments also grew 12% in units and 9% in dollars during that time, with non-automotive shipments increasing by 32% and 22% for units and dollars, respectively.

The hottest industries were Metals (54%), Automotive Components (42%), and Food and Consumer Goods (21%).

Total motion control shipments increased by 10% to $2.6 billion, marking the industry’s best nine month mark since these figures began being tracked. The largest product category is Motors (38% of shipments), followed by Actuators and Mechanical Systems (18% of shipments), and Electronic Drives (17% of shipments).

The fastest growing categories in the first nine months of 2017 were Motion Controllers (24% to $147m), Sensors & Feedback Devices (20% to $116m), AC Drives (15% to $295m), Actuators & Mechanical Systems (13% to $479m), and Motors (11% to $1b).

The majority of suppliers believe that order and shipment volumes will increase in the next six months, with most distributors feeling that orders and shipments will be flat in the same time period.

The North American Machine Vision Market continued its best start to a year ever in 2017, with growth of 14% overall to $1.937b, 14% in systems to $1.657b, and 14% in components to $271m. Each of those three categories set new records in the first nine months of this year, and every individual product category experienced positive year-over-year growth for the same period last year. Some notable growth rates were Smart Cameras (21% to $295m), Lighting (20% to $54m), Software (16% to $15m), and Component Cameras (14% to $143m).

Experts believe lighting, optics, imaging boards, and software will trend up, while camera sales will remain flat in the next six months. Additionally, expectations are for Application Specific Machine Vision (ASMV) systems to increase and smart cameras to remain flat over the same time period. The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in the second quarter (avg. PMI of 53.0) and is expected to remain strong through the end of the year.

A longtime advocate for and supporter of the robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor markets, A3 comprises of three trade associations: the Robotic Industries Association (RIA); the AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging (AIA); and the Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA). A3 is currently at a record combined membership of 1,070 as of November 30, 2017.

“The market for robotics and automation continues at a healthy growth rate,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “It’s evident that the investment companies are making in these automation technologies is having a positive impact on productivity and competitiveness, while saving and creating new jobs in North America.”

A3 will discuss these findings and how its members can use the information to set sales and expansion goals for next year during its annual A3 Business Forum in January of 2018. For more information on that and its other event, The Vision Show, see below:

A3 Business Forum, Orlando, Fla., Jan. 17–19, 2018
The Vision Show, Boston, Mass., April 10–12, 2018

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