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Robotics Industry Sets New Records in 2005 as New Orders Jump 23% in North America

POSTED 02/08/2006

New Orders & Shipments (.pdf file)

Ann Arbor, Michigan – North American robotics companies posted record new orders in 2005, surpassing its previous high set in 1999, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 18,228 robots valued at $1.16 billion were ordered by North American manufacturing companies, an increase of 23% in units and 17% in dollars over 2004 totals. When orders placed by companies outside of North America are added, the final totals are 19,445 robots valued at $1.22 billion, gains of 21% in units and 15% in dollars over last year.

Robot shipments also set a new high in 2005, with 19,594 robots valued at $1.18 billion shipped to companies in North America. When shipments to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 20,906 robots valued at $1.24 billion, representing gains of 45% in units and 28% in dollars.

RIA estimates that some 158,000 robots are now installed in American manufacturing  operations, placing the U.S. second to Japan in robot usage.

'Clearly, 2005 was the best year ever for the North American robotics industry,' said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President. 'It’s gratifying to see the industry finally surpass the records set in 1999 when the North American economy was really booming.

'However, while we expect long-term growth to continue, the near-term holds several uncertainties. Among our concerns is that in the fourth quarter of 2005, we witnessed a slowdown in year on year performance, as new orders in North America actually declined two percent from the same period in 2004.

'We’re also concerned about the troubles faced by leading companies in the automotive industry, since the automotive manufacturers and their suppliers are the largest users of robots in North America.

'And, we remain concerned by the continued shift of manufacturing operations from North America to overseas countries such as China, as well as the robustness of the U.S. economy, which certainly is not as healthy as it was when we posted our previous record year in 1999. All of these factors make us cautious about the expectations for 2006,' Vincent explained.

Despite his caution about the near term, Vincent said long term growth will be fueled by the growing realization that robotics automation can help companies survive and prosper in an increasingly competitive global manufacturing environment.

'We’ve seen many examples of small, medium, and large companies in just about every industry that have taken advantage of the productivity, quality, and flexibility gains that robots provide in order to compete successfully in the global market,' he asserted.

Vincent noted that robot use jumped 30% in the life sciences, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries in 2005. 'As companies learn more about the benefits of robotics in industries where they may currently not be in widespread use, we can expect to see long term growth.'

Automotive manufacturers, the largest users of robots, increased their orders by 49% in 2005. Orders jumped 14% to automotive components companies. Combined, these two sectors accounted for 70% of new robot orders in 2005.

'Automotive purchasing tends to be cyclical, so we would not normally expect to see a repeat of this rapid growth in 2006' Vincent observed.

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 250 robotics suppliers, system integrators, end users, consulting firms, universities, and research groups. RIA’s quarterly statistics are based on information supplied by member companies and represent an estimated 90% of the North American robotics market.

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

Jeff Burnstein
(734) 994-6088