In a initial, most North American robots last calendar year didn’t go to automotive plants

(Reuters) – For the 1st time last 12 months, most of the robots purchased by corporations in North The usa weren’t destined for automotive factories.

FILE Picture: A foods shipping and delivery robot, developed by Starship Technologies and component of the University of Wisconsin Housing Dining & Culinary Services’ food items shipping and delivery system, is noticed on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak carries on in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S., October 19, 2020. The robots have a four-mile shipping and delivery radius and can carry up to 20 pounds of food. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The shift is element of a extensive-expression development of automation spreading into a lot more corners of the financial state which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On the web merchants have scrambled to increase capacity as extra people today invest in products on line, when foods and other types of factories have found automation as a instrument to maintain traces running and employees securely divided.

Shipments of robots rose to 31,044 in 2020, a 3.5% enhance above the prior year, with 52% heading to plants that make items these kinds of as consumer goods and prescribed drugs, in accordance to details compiled by sector team the Affiliation for Advancing Automation.

The orders were valued at $1.57 billion in overall.

Orders by everyday living sciences, pharmaceutical and biomedical providers rose 69% very last 12 months, the team documented, though demand from customers from foodstuff and consumer merchandise companies grew by 56%.

“There’s absolutely been an upturn in individual parts for the reason that of the pandemic,” mentioned Alex Shikany, the group’s vice president of membership and small business intelligence. “The value proposition of automation is always performance, but with a pandemic it’s also a way to room workers out and to operate factories 24 hours a day without having disruptions.”

The robotic marketplace, like most producers, was strike really hard through the pandemic as world-wide offer chains ground to a halt and businesses closed. But business snapped back again later in the year. Robot shipments in the fourth quarter have been the second greatest in background, up approximately 64% from the calendar year-back period of time, the report reported.

The car market, a mix of assembly vegetation and parts suppliers, has very long dominated the sector for robots, though the stage of need can fluctuate dependent on how many automakers are retooling for new styles. Automotive accounted for two-thirds of robot shipments in 2017.

Procter & Gamble Co. is amid the non-automotive firms making use of far more automation in its factories and warehouses.

Mark Lewandowski, the company’s director of robotics innovation, explained that a ten years back, there was fewer machinery precisely designed for factories that manufactured issues like meals or soap.

“Automotive was the significant gorilla in the place,” he reported, but that’s altered. Over the past calendar year, for occasion, P&G was capable to go immediately in response to the pandemic to put in a lot more robots in services that bundle collectively merchandise into distinctive packaging.

“Traditionally that was finished manually,” he claimed, since the machines that could have automated it had been expensive and lacked the adaptability needed to continuously change among packaging different mixtures of goods. But with new urgency to individual staff to keep them safe and the availability to less costly and a lot more adaptable machines, it was doable, he reported.

Reporting by Timothy Aeppel editing by Richard Pullin and Dan Burns