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North American Robot Orders Jump 17% in First Quarter of 2004

POSTED 05/04/2004

Fastest Start Since 1999

Ann Arbor, MI – North American based robotics manufacturers saw robot orders jump 17% in the first quarter of 2004 over the opening quarter of 2003, the best new order rate to start the year since the record-setting year of 1999.

A total of 4,101 robots valued at $226.5 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies in the opening quarter.  The revenue figure is three percent higher than in the first quarter of 2003.  When sales to companies outside North America are added in, the totals are 4,372 robots valued at $245.8 million, for gains of 20% in units and six percent in revenue.

Among the applications posting the strongest gains in the first quarter were arc welding, material handling, and spot welding.  Significant growth came from non-automotive customers in industries such as food & consumer goods, semiconductors & electronics, and plastics & rubber.

‘‘We’re very encouraged by the strong start to 2004,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group that collects and reports industry statistics on a quarterly basis.  Statistics are provided by RIA member companies and represent an estimated 90% of the North American robotics market.

‘‘The first quarter results provide further evidence that economic conditions are improving and that investment in capital equipment is on the rise again,’‘ Vincent said.  ‘‘The robotics industry suffered when capital equipment spending dried up, and now we’re benefiting from the upturn.  However, the strength of the economic recovery remains uncertain, so we’re not sure if the healthy gains of the first quarter will be repeated throughout the year.

‘‘Manufacturing companies today are fighting hard to remain competitive.  Some are choosing to outsource jobs to lower cost nations like China.  Others are investing in robotic automation for North American manufacturing to produce higher quality products faster and more cost effectively.  We believe that when more companies take a hard look at the advantages of technologies like robotics in comparison to the risks of outsourcing, they will conclude that investing in automation is the better course,’‘ asserted Vincent.

To help convince small, medium and large companies in every industry that robots make strategic sense, RIA is sponsoring the  ‘‘Robots 2004’‘ conference on June 9 & 10 in Ypsilanti (suburban Detroit), Michigan.  The conference focuses on issues such as cost justification strategies, case histories of companies that have successfully applied robots, and how to incorporate robots in a lean manufacturing environment.

Tabletop exhibits from leading suppliers of robots and related products will be on display at Robots 2004.  It’s the largest industrial robotics event in North America this year, according to RIA officials.

RIA estimates that some 137,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in robot use. 

Founded in 1974 and now celebrating its 30th anniversary year, RIA represents some 220 robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, universities, research groups, and consulting firms.

For more information about RIA, the upcoming Robots 2004 conference and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or call RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.

Jeff Burnstein
(734) 994-6088