Robot Sales Jump 39%

Sept. 10, 2007
Automotive Orders Fuel Growth
Ann Arbor, Mich.—New orders received by North American-based robotics companies rose 39% in the first half of 2007, according to new statistics from the Robotic Industries Association, the industry’s trade group. A total of 9,208 robots valued at $525.2 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies through June. When orders to companies outside North America are included, total sales for North American based robot suppliers totaled 9,992 robots valued at $563.2 million. These totals represent a gain of 40% in units and 12% in revenue. The April to June quarter was very strong, with increases of 60% in units and 24% in revenue over the comparable period in 2006. The 2007 gains can be traced primarily to a 76% jump in orders to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers. ‘‘Automotive industry buying patterns for robots are quite cyclical, and this year we’re seeing the upswing,’‘ says Jeffrey A. Burnstein, executive vice president of RIA. Non-automotive orders declined 5%, though gains were reported in robot sales to life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomedical/medical devices (+13%) food & consumer goods (+11%), and a basket of ‘‘other industries’‘ that includes beverage & tobacco, apparel, wood products, paper, printing, machinery, furniture, and miscellaneous manufacturing companies (+11%). ‘‘We’re happy to see some of the non-automotive markets growing, but would like to see this extended to areas such as semiconductors & electronics, metals, and plastics & rubber, all of which showed declines through June,’‘ says Burnstein. In terms of applications, spot welding orders posted the largest increase in the first six months of the year (150%), followed by coating & dispensing (38%) and material handling (25%). ‘‘This is what you would expect to see when the automotive industry is ramping up its robot orders,” explains Burnstein. RIA estimates that more than 171,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in overall robot use. Worldwide, there are more than 1 million industrial robots in operation.