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Fanuc leads rising tide of industrial automation in the US

The ongoing global trend towards greater industrial automation is being reflected in an increase in the number of industrial robots into the US. 

According to a report by Panjiva, a global trade platform, the upswing is likely to continue.

Chris Rogers, Panjiva research analyst, says industrial robot manufacturer has been one of the leading beneficiaries. 

 imports of industrial automation
Chart segments imports of industrial automation; lower panel shows change in total. Source: Panjiva

US imports of industrial automation equipment reached a new high in December of $158 million, according to Panjiva data.

The figure represents a 25.9 per cent increase on a year earlier, and brings the quarterly total to a 38.9 per cent rise, and may be continued in January as seaborne imports increased 22 per cent.

This is part of a global trend towards increased industrial automation that has led Japanese manufacturer Fanuc to raise its full year profit guidance, Nikkei reports.

 industrial robot imports to the US
Data for industrial robot imports to the US segmented by company name. Source: Panjiva

Fanuc has been aggressively building its market share in the US.

In January it increased imports 97.2 per cent on a year earlier while its main competitors – Yaskawa Electric, Kawasaki Heavy and ABB – all experienced a decline.

What isn’t yet clear is whether this is in response to sales demand, or simply a strategy of inventory building ahead of potential new trade barriers from the Trump administration.

The latter is not a strategy other Japanese firms have pursued, as discussed in Panjiva research of February 20.

balance of exports and imports of industrial automation
Upper panel shows balance of exports and imports of industrial automation; lower panel the change in exports. Source: Panjiva

US exports of industrial automation equipment also increased in December by 8.9 per cent, led by increased shipments to Mexico (by 44.7 per cent) and Canada (which were 48.8 per cent higher).

The US ran a $188.5 million surplus – before adjusting for re-exports – with those two countries in industrial automation for 2016.

That may be at risk if the Trump administration takes a hawkish stance to Nafta renegotiations.