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North American Robotics Orders Rise 20% in 2004

POSTED 02/14/2005

Robots Helping Keep Jobs in North America, Says RIA

Ann Arbor, Michigan -- North American manufacturing companies purchased 14,838 robots valued at nearly $1 billion in 2004, a 20% rise in units over 2003 and the industry’s second best unit total ever, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group headquartered here.

‘‘It’s clear that more and more companies recognize that robots can play a key role in keeping manufacturing jobs in North America,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of RIA.  ‘‘As the capabilities of robots have increased and the overall costs have fallen, manufacturing in North America using robots is an increasingly viable alternative to sending manufacturing jobs overseas to low-cost producers.’‘

Orders by North American automotive manufacturers and suppliers to the auto industry accounted for about 64% of the total in 2004, down from 68% in 2003.  Vincent said this is a strong indicator that robots are gaining traction in a diverse range of non-automotive companies in industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, electronics, aerospace, and life sciences.

‘‘The message is spreading that robots aren’t just for heavy manufacturing companies, or only for large companies,’‘ Vincent explained.  ‘‘At our robotics conferences, we find a growing number of small and medium sized companies attending from industries where robots may be used in relatively small numbers today, such as consumer goods, but have enormous future opportunities for applications like packaging and palletizing.  Indeed, North American orders for packaging and palletizing robots grew 50% in 2004,’‘ Vincent noted.

Small and medium sized companies will be among the target audience when the robotics industry gathers for the biennial International Robots & Vision Show and Conference at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont (Chicago), Illinois, September 27-29, 2005.

‘‘In addition to seeing all the latest robotics products, attendees have the chance to attend practical conference sessions that focus on issues like cost justification, successful applications, and systems integration, all of which are especially important to companies considering the use of robots,’‘ Vincent said.  Full information about the show can be found at RIA’s website, www.robotics.org, which also contains in-depth information geared to current and prospective robotics users.

North American robotics companies also saw big gains in orders from companies outside North America in 2004.  A total of 1,291 robots valued at $65 million were ordered, an increase of 152% in units and 78% in revenue.  Overall new orders for the year totaled 16,129 robots valued at $1.06 billion, for gains of 25% in units and 16% in revenue.

The impressive 2004 results follow upon strong gains in 2003, when North American robotics orders grew 19 percent.    However, Vincent was quick to caution that such large gains can’t be expected every year.

‘‘The last two years have been very good in large part due to the pent-up demand during 2001 and 2002 when manufacturing companies were cutting capital equipment expenditures, ‘‘ Vincent said.  ‘‘Once they resumed buying, robots were near the top of their shopping lists, and we’ve seen the results.  Whether or not this continues in 2005 depends upon many economic factors.  However, the long term prospects for the robotics industry remain outstanding.’‘

RIA estimates that some 144,000 robots are now being used in the United States, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in terms of robot use.  The association collects and reports statistics each quarter based upon actual totals provided by member companies, which RIA estimates represents more than 90% of the North American industrial robot market.

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 225 robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups, and consulting firms.

For complete details on RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or call RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.

Jeff Burnstein
(734) 994-6088