In a to start with, most North American robots last yr did not go to automotive vegetation

(Reuters) – For the initial time final calendar year, most of the robots purchased by providers in North The united states weren’t destined for automotive factories.

FILE Photograph: A food items supply robot, developed by Starship Systems and element of the College of Wisconsin Housing Dining & Culinary Services’ foods shipping and delivery method, is viewed on the campus of the College of Wisconsin-Madison, as the coronavirus sickness (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 kilos of foodstuff. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The shift is element of a very long-term development of automation spreading into additional corners of the economic climate which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On the net vendors have scrambled to increase potential as more men and women invest in items online, although food stuff and other types of factories have seen automation as a software to continue to keep lines jogging and personnel securely separated.

Shipments of robots rose to 31,044 in 2020, a 3.5% increase in excess of the prior year, with 52% likely to vegetation that make things these kinds of as shopper merchandise and prescription drugs, according to info compiled by marketplace team the Association for Advancing Automation.

The orders were being valued at $1.57 billion in overall.

Orders by existence sciences, pharmaceutical and biomedical corporations rose 69% last year, the group noted, although need from foodstuff and customer products corporations grew by 56%.

“There’s absolutely been an upturn in particular locations mainly because of the pandemic,” said Alex Shikany, the group’s vice president of membership and organization intelligence. “The value proposition of automation is usually efficiency, but with a pandemic it is also a way to house personnel out and to operate factories 24 hours a working day with no disruptions.”

The robot field, like most manufacturers, was strike really hard throughout the pandemic as world-wide offer chains floor to a halt and corporations closed. But organization snapped again later in the year. Robotic shipments in the fourth quarter ended up the 2nd optimum in history, up just about 64% from the yr-ago time period, the report stated.

The auto market, a blend of assembly crops and elements suppliers, has prolonged dominated the sector for robots, even though the amount of need can fluctuate relying on how quite a few automakers are retooling for new types. Automotive accounted for two-thirds of robotic shipments in 2017.

Procter & Gamble Co. is among the non-automotive organizations applying much more automation in its factories and warehouses.

Mark Lewandowski, the company’s director of robotics innovation, explained that a decade ago, there was fewer equipment specially intended for factories that made matters like food stuff or soap.

“Automotive was the significant gorilla in the room,” he said, but that’s improved. Around the earlier yr, for instance, P&G was in a position to shift swiftly in response to the pandemic to put in extra robots in services that bundle jointly goods into specific packaging.

“Traditionally that was finished manually,” he explained, mainly because the equipment that could have automatic it ended up expensive and lacked the flexibility required to consistently change concerning packaging different mixtures of merchandise. But with new urgency to individual personnel to hold them risk-free and the availability to less costly and additional flexible devices, it was doable, he stated.

Reporting by Timothy Aeppel modifying by Richard Pullin and Dan Burns