US companies put record number of robots to work in 2018

Updated 28 February 2019
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US companies put record number of robots to work in 2018

  • Shipments hit 28,478, nearly 16 percent more than in 2017
  • Pressure to automate is growing as companies seek to cut labor costs in a tight job market

US companies installed more robots last year than ever before, as cheaper and more flexible machines put them within reach of businesses of all sizes and in more corners of the economy beyond their traditional foothold in car plants.
Shipments hit 28,478, nearly 16 percent more than in 2017, according to data seen by Reuters that was set for release on Thursday by the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Shipments increased in every sector the group tracks, except automotive, where carmakers cut back after finishing a major round of tooling up for new truck models. (graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2VrzKzU)
Other sectors boomed. Shipments to food and consumer goods companies surged 60 percent compared to the year before. Shipments to semiconductor and electronics plants were up over 50 percent, while shipments to metal producers rose 13 percent.
Pressure to automate is growing as companies seek to cut labor costs in a tight job market. Many companies that are considering bringing work back from overseas in response to the Trump administration’s trade wars may find automation the best way to stay competitive, even with higher-cost US workers.
Bob Doyle, vice president of the Association for Advancing Automation, said automation is moving far beyond its traditional foothold in auto assembly plants and other large manufacturers into warehouses and smaller factories.
One of those is Metro Plastics Technologies Inc, a family-owned business in Noblesville, Indiana, which has only 125 employees and got its start in the 1970s making, among other things, mood rings. Last March, the company bought its first robot, an autonomous machine that carries finished parts from the production area to quality inspectors. In the past, that work was done by workers driving forklifts.
“We had three propane, 5,000-pound forklifts,” said Ken Hahn, the company’s president. “We’ve eliminated those.” Hahn’s robot cost $40,000, about twice that of the cheapest option he considered, but far below the $125,000 machines also on offer.
Last year marked the first time since 2010 that auto and auto part companies failed to account for more than half of shipments, coming at just under 49 percent instead, according to the report. In 2017, over 60 percent of shipments went to automakers.
“The food industry is really starting to take off” as a market for automation, said Dan Hasley, director of sales and marketing for Kawasaki Robotics (USA) Inc, part of Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries. He added that “food and beverage is one of the segments that really responds to tight labor markets.”


Leisure chief hails Saudi Arabia’s $64 billion entertainment revolution

Updated 25 March 2019
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Leisure chief hails Saudi Arabia’s $64 billion entertainment revolution

  • Projects in the pipeline exxpected to create over 22,000 jobs and contribute over $2 billion to GDP by 2030
  • KSA’s travel and tourism sector accounted for about $65 billion of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a $64 billion entertainment revolution, a leisure business chief said on Sunday.

Projects in the pipeline will cater for more than 50 million visitors, create over 22,000 jobs and contribute over $2 billion to GDP by 2030, said Bill Ernest, chief executive of the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Co. (SEVEN). 

Ernest, a former Disney executive and a veteran of the entertainment industry, is already behind SEVEN’s venture with AMC Group to open cinemas in the Kingdom, its first new film venues in over 35 years.

He told delegates at a conference in Dubai on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector accounted for about $65 billion of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, making it more valuable than the automotive industry, manufacturing, agriculture and banking.

He said travel and tourism in the Kingdom sustained over a million jobs that year, and that the sector had expanded by 38.2 percent since 1997.

SEVEN is one of the first companies in Saudi Arabia to embrace government investment plans of $64 billion to develop entertainment over the next decade. Ernest sketched out SEVEN’s plans for the funds, giving details of a massive multi-cluster family entertainment destination in Riyadh.

Featuring cinemas, augmented reality activities, green open areas equipped for sports and aquatic activities, live show venues and restaurants, the Riyadh destination will be the first of many such projects planned across the country, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.

Job creation, Ernest said, was key to the project’s viability. “Our offerings will create exciting new roles for ambitious young Saudi nationals. We will need to provide training in new skill sets.

“While employing locals, we also want to create friendly, awe-inspiring environments where Saudi nationals will want to spend quality time with their family and friends.

“SEVEN aims to be the leader in Saudi Arabia’s entertainment ecosystem. We aim to facilitate the presence of both international and local brands, and in doing so, become the national entertainment champion.”