North American Automation Market Shattering Records in 2017

ANN ARBOR — The North American automation market set new records through the first nine months of 2017, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the Ann Arbor-based advocate for the benefits of automating. Results found records set in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology.

The findings:


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 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars during the first nine months of 2016. Automotive-related orders are up 11 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars, while non-automotive orders are up 20 percent and 11 percent, 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 percent in units and 13 percent in dollars over what sold in 2016. Automotive-related shipments also grew 12 percent in units and 9 percent in dollars during that time, with non-automotive shipments increasing by 32 percent and 22 percent for units and dollars, respectively.

The hottest industries were metals (54 percent), automotive components (42 percent), and food and consumer goods (21 percent).

Motion Control & Motors

Total motion control shipments increased 10 percent 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 percent of shipments), followed by actuators and mechanical systems (18 percent of shipments), and electronic drives (17 percent of shipments).

The fastest growing categories in the first nine months of 2017 were motion controllers (24 percent to $147 million), sensors and feedback devices (20 percent to $116 million), AC drives (15 percent to $295 million), actuators and mechanical systems (13 percent to $479 million), and motors (11 percent to $1 billion).

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.

Vision & Imaging

The North American machine vision market continued its best start to a year ever in 2017, with growth of 14 percent overall to $1.937 billion, 14 percent in systems to $1.657 billion, and 14 percent in components to $271 million. 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 percent to $295 million), lighting (20 percent to $54 million), software (16 percent to $15 million), and component cameras (14 percent to $143 million).

A3 said its 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.

A3 is comprised of three trade associations: the Robotic Industries Association (RIA); the AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging (AIA); and the Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA). A3 was at a record combined membership of 1,070 as of Nov. 30.

“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.”

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