New orders received by North American-based robotics companies were down 36% through the first nine months of 2006, although non-automotive orders were down just 3%, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA, Ann Arbor, Mich.), the industry’s trade group.
"With robot orders from the automotive sector down 49% so far this year, it’s no surprise we’re in the midst of a down year for the robotics industry," said Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. "Automotive orders are traditionally quite cyclical and were at record levels last year. We expect to see automotive orders turn up within the next year or two as automotive manufacturers and their suppliers ramp up spending for future new product launches.
"However, in the overall down market, we’re encouraged by the relatively small decline in non-automotive orders. In fact, we’ve seen modest growth in some sectors, including life sciences and pharmaceutical, and plastics and rubber.
Vincent said that 9,564 robots valued at $698.3 million were ordered by North American companies through September. With orders outside of North America included, the totals are 10,338 robots valued at $740.1 million.
Material handling accounts for the largest share of robot applications, totaling about 41%. Welding is next, at 39%. Assembly and Dispensing/Coating each account for approximately six percent of new orders in 2006.
RIA estimates that some 164,000 robots are now installed in American factories.
Vincent noted that while some North American companies are moving or considering moving their manufacturing operations offshore, others are looking at robotics as a way to remain globally competitive.
"The flexibility, productivity and quality gains that robots help companies achieve are significant factors in convincing companies of all sizes to consider robots. For many companies, it makes economic sense to invest in robotics rather than take the logistical, cultural, and talent pool risks of moving manufacturing operations overseas," Vincent explained.