North American robotics orders jump 17% in 1Q04

Ann Arbor, MI—North American-based robotics manufacturers saw orders for their robots jump 17% in the first quarter of 2004 (1Q04) compared to 1Q03, according to recent research by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).


Ann Arbor, MI— North American-based robotics manufacturers saw orders for their robots jump 17% in the first quarter of 2004 (1Q04) compared to 1Q03, according to recent research by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). This was best new order rate to start a year since the present record was set in 1999. Statistics are provided by RIA’s member companies, and represent an estimated 90% of the North American robotics market.

A total of 4,101 robots worth $226.5 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies in 1Q04. This revenue figure was 3% percent higher than in 1Q04. When sales to companies outside North America are added in, the total robots ordered reaches 4,372 robots, valued at $245.8 million, for gains of 20% in units and 6% in revenue.

Robotic applications posting the strongest gains in 1Q04 were arc welding, material handling, and spot welding. Significant growth came from non-automotive customers in industries, such as food and consumer goods, semiconductors and electronics, and plastics and rubber.

'We’re very encouraged by the strong start to 2004,' says Donald Vincent, RIA’s executive VP. 'The first quarter results provide further evidence that economic conditions are improving and that investment in capital equipment is on the rise again. The robotics industry suffered when capital equipment spending dried up, and now we’re benefiting from the upturn. However, the strength of the economic recovery remains uncertain, so we’re not sure if the healthy gains of the first quarter will be repeated throughout the year.

'Manufacturing companies today are fighting hard to remain competitive. Some are choosing to outsource jobs to lower cost nations like China. Others are investing in robotic automation for North American manufacturing to produce higher quality products faster and more cost effectively. We believe that when more companies take a hard look at the advantages of technologies like robotics in comparison to the risks of outsourcing, they will conclude that investing in automation is the better course.”

To help convince small, medium and large companies in every industry that robots make strategic sense, RIA is sponsoring its “Robots 2004” conference on June 9-10 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The conference will focus on issues, such as cost justification strategies, case histories of companies that have successfully applied robots, and how to incorporate robots in a lean manufacturing environment. Tabletop exhibits from leading suppliers of robots and related products will be on display at Robots 2004. It’s the largest industrial robotics event in North America this year, according to RIA officials.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jim Montague, news editor

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