By Timothy Aeppel
(Reuters) – North American companies ordered about a third fewer robots last year as worries about a slowing economy and higher interest rates made it harder to justify buying the advanced machines, the first hiccup in five years in what has been a steady progression of the robot invasion of the region’s workforce.
“When the economy isn’t great, it’s easier to delay purchases,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group that tracks robot orders.
Companies bought 31,159 robots in 2023, a decrease of 30% over the year before, the largest drop in percentage terms since 2006 and largest drop ever in net units, according to the group, known as A3. The pullback occurred in automotive-related industries – which made up about half of the market last year – as well as other sectors s...