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North American Robot Orders Decline 17% in First Quarter

POSTED 05/20/2008

Non-Automotive Orders Jump 36%, ‘‘An Encouraging Sign,’‘ says RIA

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 (Robotics Online) – Ann Arbor, Michigan – North American robotics companies reported that new orders sold to North American manufacturers fell 17% in the first quarter of 2008 from the same quarter in 2007, but revenue rose five percent.

Orders to non-automotive companies surged, an encouraging sign for future robotics growth, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

‘‘In the non-automotive sector, we saw revenue growth of 116% in Food & Consumer Goods.  In semiconductor/electronics/photonics, unit orders were up 58% and revenue was up 96%.  When we come to Metals, orders in both units and revenue were up 50%+.  Also Plastics & Rubber were up 50%,’‘ says Åke Lindqvist, Group Vice President of ABB Robotics and Chairman of the RIA Statistics Committee. ‘‘This most likely means that the value-add in the orders to the non-automotive sector are increasing,’‘ he explained.

A total of 3,828 robots valued at $288.1 million were sold in the opening quarter by North American based robotics companies, according to new figures released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.  When sales to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 4,281 robots valued at $311.3 million, a decline of 15% in units and a gain of six percent in revenue.

The first quarter numbers reveal the continuation of a downturn in purchases by the automotive industry which began in the second half of 2007.  Orders to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers fell 34% in units. Traditionally, the automotive industry accounts for some 65% of robot orders in North America.  In the first quarter, sales to automotive customers accounted for just 52% of total orders.

‘‘Welding and coating/dispensing orders showed big declines because these are heavily tied to automotive.  Assembly and material handling applications showed gains because many of these applications are also extensively used in non-automotive industries,’‘ said Jeffrey A. Burnstein, Executive Vice President of RIA.

RIA hopes to foster increased growth in non-automotive sectors when it sponsors its upcoming Robots 2008 conference in Boston, June 10-12.  ‘‘The event focuses on what’s new in robotics, looking at applications in retail, pharmaceutical, biotech, rehabilitation, lab automation and other important markets where robots are just beginning to make their mark,’‘ said Burnstein.  Åke Lindqvist added ‘‘we have had a more or less flat market development in the non-automotive sector for quite some time, let’s hope that this trend is finally broken.’‘

Additionally, RIA is in the process of completely overhauling its Robotics Online website (www.roboticsonline.com).  ‘‘When the new site is unveiled in June, it will make it easier than ever for potential users to find products that meet their needs,’‘ Burnstein asserted.
RIA estimates that some 180,000 robots are now used in the United States, placing the United States second only to Japan in overall robot use.  It’s estimated that more than one million robots are being used worldwide.

Founded in1974, RIA represents more than 275 North American companies including leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms.  RIA’s quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing an estimated 90% of the North American market.

For more information about RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.roboticsonline.com or contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.


Jeff Burnstein