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Record number of robots joined the workforce in 2018, says report

But shipments of robots to the automotive industry have decreased.


More robots have joined the workforce in non-automotive industries. 

Marijan Murat via Getty Images

More robots are joining the workforce.

A record number of robots, 35,880 units, shipped to North American companies in 2018, according to statistics published Thursday by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). Nearly half of the robots went to non-automotive companies, including areas like food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences and electronics.

"While the automotive industry has always led the way in implementing robotics here in North America, we are quite pleased to see other industries continuing to realize the benefits of automation," said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, which owns RIA. "Small and medium-sized companies are using robots to solve real-world challenges, which is helping them be more competitive on a global scale."

However, shipments to the automotive industry have slowed. Only 19,178 units were shipped to North America last year, a decrease of 12 percent, compared with 21,732 units shipped in 2017. Still, the automotive industry accounted for 53 percent of total robot shipments to companies in North America.

In January, a report from the Brookings Institution said 25 percent of US workers, roughly 36 million jobs, will face "high exposure" to automation in the next few decades. Another 36 percent, 52 million jobs, will face "medium exposure."

The report also said there's not really a field that won't be affected by automation and artificial intelligence.