CHICAGO—Last year, robot sales in the United States hit a new peak of almost 38,000 units, setting a record for the eighth year in a row. According to a new study by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), robot density at American manufacturers is now more than double that of China.

“Robot density in the U.S. is now 200 robots per 10,000 employees vs. 97 in China,” says Junji Tsuda, president of IFR. “The trend to automate production in both domestic and global markets is the main driving force of robot installations in the United States.”

The automotive industry continues to be the No. 1 market for industrial robots. Auto part suppliers account for two-thirds of installations. The average annual growth rate of robot sales to the U.S. automotive industry between 2013 and 2018 was 7 percent.

“Robot density in the automotive industry increased by 52 percent between 2012 and 2017, from 790 to 1,200 industrial robots in operation per 10,000 employees,” claims Tsuda. "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the automotive industry during this same time period increased by 22 percent from 824,400 to 1,005,000 jobs."

The electrical and electronics products industry was the second largest robot market in 2018, with a market share of 18 percent. From 2013 to 2018, robot installations increased by 15 percent on average per year. The number of installations rose by 2 percent to almost 6,700 units in 2018.