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Robot Orders Down 30% Through September

POSTED 11/11/2009

Ann Arbor, MI – North American robotics companies saw orders for new robots decline 30% in units and 43% in dollars in the first nine months of 2009, according to new figures from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 7,172 robots valued at $425.8 million have been ordered by North American manufacturing companies through September, compared with 2008 nine month totals of 10,279 robots valued at $743.4 million.

Steep declines are evident in sales to automotive OEMs and their suppliers, historically the largest purchasers of robots, with units off 29% and dollars 44% through September compared with 2008.

Orders by non-automotive customers are also down sharply – 32% in units and 41% in dollars. “The North American robotics industry is facing its stiffest test in more than two decades right now as it intensifies its efforts to reach a wide-range of non-automotive customers to offset the cutbacks by the automotive industry,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA.

“While robotics companies are not alone in suffering big declines in automotive orders, we are impacted to a greater extent than many industries since automotive customers traditionally account for more than 60% of new robot orders in North America. Through the first nine months of 2009, units sold to automotive customers account for just 54% of new orders, while the dollars from these automotive customers account for just 49%, likely the lowest figure ever,” Burnstein explained.

Tammy Mulcahy of ABB Robotics and Chair of RIA’s Statistics Committee said that there are a few bright spots in the numbers. “Orders from life sciences customers are up 14% through September, while orders from food & consumer goods customers are up 12%,” she noted.

“While these are relatively small markets in North America at this time, they are two that hold strong growth potential and we’re glad to see them growing even during this unprecedented downturn for robotics and other capital equipment purchases,” Mulcahy asserted. “We also noted that overall orders were up 42% in units and 24% in dollars over the second quarter of 2009. While I’m hesitant to say that this means the worst is behind us, we’re obviously pleased at this strong upturn,” she added.

RIA estimates that some 192,000 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 250 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 on RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or call RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.