New orders received by North American based robotics companies fell 38% in the first half of 2006, reported the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor. The organization attributes the steep drop from 2005, which was a record year for robot sales, to a cyclical downturn in the automotive industry. New orders in that sector were down 52%. Sales to non-automotive companies, which account for 45% of the industry’s total sales, were down only 5%.
Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA, said that while most application areas showed declines, new orders for assembly robots as well as for material removal robots were up 33%. “Since assembly robots are used primarily in non-automotive applications, this is further evidence of continued penetration into new areas for robotics,” said Vincent.
A total of 6,607 robots valued at $473.5 million were ordered by North American companies through June. When orders from companies outside North America are included, total sales for North American robot suppliers totaled 7,141 robots valued at $501.4 million. The totals represent a decline of 37% in units and 26% in revenue.
Vincent said the sharp decline in overall robot orders may continue for a while as the automotive industry digests large purchases made in the last few years. “In addition, continued economic difficulties in the automotive industry are likely to slow their investments in new technologies, not just robotics,” he explained.