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Robot Orders Post Strong Gains in First Quarter of 2010

POSTED 05/04/2010

Ann Arbor, MI – North American based robotics manufacturers saw new orders jump 16% in units and 30% in dollars in the first quarter of 2010 when compared with the same quarter in 2009, said the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 3,069 robots valued at $208.1 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies in the first quarter of 2010.  In addition to exceeding the first quarter 2009 totals, the quarter was also 35% better in units and 45% ahead in dollars over the last quarter of 2009.

“While we’re encouraged by the strong gains, we’re keenly aware that business in 2009 was extremely weak,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA.  “The good news is that business is picking up, but we still have a long way to go to emerge from the impact of the financial crisis on investments in new factory automation equipment,” he explained.

Nearly every major user industry increased its purchases in the opening quarter of 2010.  Especially strong gains were seen in robot sales to the semiconductor/electronics/photonics industries as well as food & consumer goods. 

Automotive OEMs and component suppliers, traditionally the largest purchasers of robots in North America, also increased their orders in the first quarter of 2010.  “The turnarounds we’re seeing in the Detroit 3 are helping create more business for the robotics industry,” said Tammy Mulcahy of ABB, Chair of RIA’s Statistics Committee.  “However, it’s likely to be some time before we reach the volumes we saw in the 2005-2007 period.”

Material handling remains the largest application area for new robot orders, accounting for some 60% of the units sold in North America in the January through March period.  According to Burnstein, this is a key reason why RIA decided to collocate its major trade show, Automate 2011 with ProMat, the leading event for the materials handling and logistics industry.  The two events will be side by side at McCormick Place in Chicago, March 21-24, 2011.

RIA estimates that some 196,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in overall robot use.  More than one million robots are now being used worldwide.

Founded in 1974, RIA currently represents some 225 robotics manufacturers, system integrators, component suppliers, end users, consulting groups, and research organizations.  In addition to its biennial trade show and conference (now known as Automate, previously known as the International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show), RIA is best-known for developing the ANSI/RIA National Robot Safety Standard, the annual Robotics Industry Forum (next event slated for January 19-21, 2011 in Orlando, Florida), and Robotics Online, the world’s leading site for robotics information.