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Robot Orders Down 19% in North America in First Nine Months of 2008

POSTED 11/17/2008

Ann Arbor, MI – North American based robot companies saw new orders from North American manufacturing companies decline 19% through September 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 10,279 robots valued at $743.4 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies through September.  When orders to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 11,503 robots valued at $811.9 million, a decline of 17% in units and 10% in dollars over the same period in 2007.

“Given the financial crisis in North America and the especially hard-hit automotive sector, we’re not surprised by the overall decline,” said Jeffrey A. Burnstein, RIA’s Executive Vice President.  “Orders from North American auto manufacturers and suppliers, sectors which annually account for more than half of annual robot orders, fell 36% in units and 26% in dollars through September.  We don’t expect to see automotive orders recover anytime soon, Burnstein noted.

“We are encouraged, though, by the year to date increase in non-automotive orders,” noted Tammy Mulcahy of ABB Robotics, Chair of RIA’s Statistics Committee.  “Orders received from non-automotive industries increased 15% in units and 10% in dollars in the first nine months of the year.   Strong growth was seen in orders to the semiconductor, electronics, and photonics industries – partly driven by solar - as well as plastics & rubber, life sciences, pharmaceutical, biomedical, and medical device industries. But, non-automotive markets declined in the third quarter, so we’ll be watching fourth quarter results very closely,” Mulcahy explained.

“Our members are quite concerned about 2009, but the financial crisis will surely ease at some point and robots will be near the top of the purchasing list for many manufacturing companies in a wide variety of industries,” Burnstein asserted.

RIA estimates that some 184,000 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.robotics.org or contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.