U.S. firms installed fewer robots last year than they did the year before, the first reduction since 2015, as a slowdown in manufacturing fed by trade wars and weaker demand dampened appetite for the machines.
Shipments dropped to 23,758, a more than 16% fall, in response to data that was set for release Tuesday by the Association for Advancing Automation, a business group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Robot freights dropped in Mexico in 2019, declining 25% to 3,263, while purchases in Canada roughly remained steady at over 3,000 units
A significant aim of President Donald Trump has been to drive manufacturers to bring work back to the U.S.., presumably supported by new automation and robotics that would enable local manufacturing facilities to compete with cheaper labor in China and other lower-cost countries.
Alexander Shikany, vice chairman of the Association for Advancing Automation, stated the downturn is more likely to be short-lived. Orders for new robots in North America, a separate measure that offers a way of how many machines will be installed in the coming months, elevated in 2019 by 1.6% to 29,988 units.
The most significant driver of that growth was a 50% jump in orders from auto manufacturers, which Shikany stated were making robots a part of their investment in the next surge of automotive technology.