Robotics Industry Posts 48% Gain in First Quarter Orders

Ann Arbor, MI –North American robotics suppliers reported first quarter gains of 48% in robot units, the industry’s best start since 1999, according to Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 3,500 robots valued at $219.5 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies, with another 132 robots valued at $11.4 million ordered from North American robot suppliers by manufacturing companies located outside North America.

"It’s an excellent start to the year, especially considering the gloomy economic conditions in North America and the uncertainties caused by the anticipation of the war in Iraq," said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of RIA.

"However, it’s much too soon to declare that the robotics industry is out of the woods yet, or that the weakness in overall capital equipment spending is behind us. We’ll have to see what the rest of the year brings, but I’m quite encouraged by the strong start," said Vincent.

The RIA numbers reflect strong gains in applications such as spot welding, assembly, coating/dispensing, material handling, and material removal. Vincent cautioned that spot welding, which is primarily an automotive application, is quite cyclical and that large unit orders placed in the first quarter may not be repeated throughout the year.

Vincent is hopeful that this year’s International Robots & Vision Show and Conference (June 3-5, Rosemont, IL) will help create new momentum for the industry.

"The show is held just once every two years and plays a key role in educating potential users about how robots can help them accomplish their manufacturing mission. This year’s event features the latest products from some 175 companies, plus in-depth sessions taught by industry experts from around the world. We’re focusing more attention on business issues this year, too, such as how companies can compare the benefits of flexible versus fixed automation, why robots make sense even in companies that stress lean manufacturing, and how to financially justify the cost of investing in robotics," Vincent explained.

RIA estimates that some 128,000 robots are now being used in the United States, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 230 robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, educational institutions, research groups, and consulting firms. For full details about RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.roboticsonline.com.

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