American Robots on the Rise

The International Federation of Robots reports that 39,576 robots went into service in 2022. The record of 40,373 robots was set in 2018, but the 2022 total is less than 800 units below that peak.

The U.S. accounts for just 7% of the robots in question, but that is 71% of the installations in North America. It’s also third place after China and Japan. That’s not many robots per capita for such a populous nation, but it is still a lot of robots.

47% of the new robots in the U.S. went into the automative industry. The Association for Advancing Automation puts that down to the rise in popularity of electric cars. Some other industries brought in fewer robots in 2022 than in previous years.

Why more robots?

Investopedia explains the increase in use of robots by pointing out that they “increase productivity, lower production costs, and can create new jobs in the tech sector.”

But these are reasons to want robots or to be glad we have them. These advantages have come along with automation for decades — even centuries. Why are we seeing an increase in robot sales now?

One reason is the ongoing labor shortages in so many industries. Another is the rise in wages. Where in the past, many companies held off on purchasing robots because the up-front cost didn’t seem feasible, the difficulty of finding and paying for human workers can make robots more appealing now.

In addition, the pandemic provoked an increase in automation to overcome supply chain problems and provide contactless solutions. People became more comfortable with robots and saw them being used more frequently.

But note the distribution

A map showing where robots are located in the U.S. would see heavy clusters on the right-hand side of the map. A few scattered robot enclaves show up west of the Mississippi, but mostly they inhabit the triangle edged by Michigan, Tennessee, and North Carolina (where Rexroth U.S. is headquartered). Large swathes of the country have scarcely any robots at all.

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