In 2019, U.S. companies installed fewer robots than in the previous year, according to Reuters. This figure is the first fall in the sector since 2015. The trade war between the United States and China is one of the causes of this slowdown in production. Another factor that affected robot production in 2019 was a weaker demand. Companies are less and less interested in these machines.
The drop in robot shipments was 16%, resulting in a total of 23,758 robots sent to the United States. This data was published Tuesday by the Advanced Automation Association, an industrial group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Robots, the key to competing against cheap labor.
One of President Donald Trump’s main objectives has been to bring factory jobs to the United States, presumably with the help of new automation and robotics that would allow national factories to compete with cheaper labor in China and other countries with low production costs. But this trend seems to have been overshadowed by a further slowdown in manufacturing.
Analysts consider robotics as one of the sectors with more future in technology, but none of the companies that are currently leaders in that field is American. This fact has caused the concern of several sectors in the United States, as it threatens the economic independence of the nation.
Increasing investment in several technology sectors, robotics among them, is vital so that the United States does not depend on production in other countries, as it has done so far in China. Therefore, the businessman and owner of the NBA team Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, has suggested to Donald Trump to give a boost to this sector in the U.S.: to invest 100,000 million dollars in it.
Cuban notes that Chinese investment in this industry is much higher than that of the United States. Currently, China invests 3 billion dollars a year in robotics, while the United States barely spends 100 million. In Cuban’s opinion, Trump has to invest in robotics as much as he has done in renewable energy so that the U.S. continues to have an independent economy. The businessman points out that there will be countries that will be left behind in the robotics career. The question in the coming years is that the country will create and own the best technology, in addition to having the infrastructure to develop the sector.
The position of the American business owner is in line with the A Roadmap for U.S. Robotics report. published in November 2016. This document commented on how the United States Congress should support the development of this sector.
The alarm has arisen not only because of the considerable investment that China has in this sector but also because the robots that are being incorporated into factories in the United States are from foreign companies. Frank Tobe, an editor of the Robot Report news web Robot Report, recalls that the last major American industrial robot manufacturer, Adept Technologies, was acquired by Japan’s Omron in 2015. Therefore, the future U.S. government must invest in the sector.
Robotics in Latin America: There is talent, but no resources
For Latin America, it is also essential to invest in this sector to boost development. However, there is not enough government support to make this possible.
The lack of development in this area is not due to the lack of talent. Mexico has managed to stand out in competitions with youth teams. Mexico is the only country in Latin America that has led to sneak into the first three places of the World Robot Olympiad, with a team of Robotics teenagers, in Qatar in 2015.
“The teams in Mexico are the ones that do it best at the Latin American level in this contest,” says Carlos Pérez, director in Mexico of World Robot Olympiad (WRO).
At the university level, the teams of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have won several awards in this type of competition.
Juan Huberto Sossa Azuela, head of the robotics and mechatronics engineering laboratory of the IPN computer research center, explains that in Mexico, there is a lot of potential in that field, not only in competitions.
“In Mexico, we are good at the theory, and we have potential. But we have to go one step further and produce robots, although this requires a state and monetary policy,” explains the academic.