ANN ARBOR, Mich.-North American robotics orders fell 23% in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, according tonew statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group.
A total of 7,100 robots valued at $528.6 million were ordered in the January-June 2008 time frame by North American manufacturing companies. When orders outside North America are added in, bookings total 7,951 units valued at $575.6 million, a decline of 20% in units but an increase of two percent in dollars.
"2008 is a very challenging year in North America for the robotics industry and other capital equipment industries," said Åke Lindqvist, group vice president, ABB Robotics, and chairman of RIA's statistics committee. "With the economy either in a recession or on the edge of one, manufacturing companies are being quite cautious when it comes to investing in automation. This is especially true in the automotive industry, the largest customer for robotics," Lindqvist explained.
RIA numbers show that orders from automotive manufacturers and their suppliers fell 43% in the first half of the year. However, non-automotive orders increased by 23% in units and 16% in dollars. Traditionally, orders from automotive related companies account for 60-70% of new robot orders. In the first half of the year, due to the decline in automotive purchases and the increase in non-automotive orders, orders between auto and non-auto were nearly equivalent.
"The gains in sales to non-automotive companies are very encouraging for the long term," said Jeffrey A. Burnstein, RIA's executive vice president. "We're seeing strong growth this year in orders from the semiconductor/electronics/photonics industry (+117%), metals (+74%), plastics and rubber (+71%), among others," Burnstein noted.
"We also believe the robotics industry is well positioned to take advantage of the world's growing demand for alternative energy sources, such as solar power and fuel cell technology. We plan to highlight the opportunities in solar power specifically at our 16th annual Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando, November 5-7," Burnstein said.
RIA estimates that some 182,000 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 in 1974, 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.roboticsonline.org.