Record year for North American robotics
Continuing growth cited by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) should be welcome in the manufacturing sector. North American robotics companies posted record new orders in 2005, surpassing the previous high of 1999, according to RIA's report "The Robotics Market: Year 2005 Results and Trends.
Continuing growth cited by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) should be welcome in the manufacturing sector. North American robotics companies posted record new orders in 2005, surpassing the previous high of 1999, according to RIA's report " The Robotics Market: Year 2005 Results and Trends. " Some 18,228 robot units valued at $1.16 billion were ordered by North American manufacturing companies—an increase of 23% in units and 17% in dollars over 2004. The report is based on data supplied to RIA by its 250 member companies.
An additional 1,217 robots were ordered by companies outside of North America, bringing overall total orders to 19,445 robots valued at $1.22 billion. This reflects gains of 21% in units and 15% in dollars over last year. Shipments of robots also set a new high in 2005, with 19,594 robots valued at $1.18 billion shipped to North American companies. When shipments to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 20,906 robots valued at $1.24 billion, representing gains of 45% in units and 28% in dollars.
RIA estimates that some 158,000 robots are now installed in American manufacturing operations, placing the U.S. second to Japan in robot usage. "Clearly, 2005 was the best year ever for the North American robotics industry," says Donald A. Vincent, RIA executive vice president. "It's gratifying to see the industry finally surpass the records set in 1999 when the North American economy was really booming."
While Vincent expects long-term growth to continue, he notes several near-term uncertainties:
A 2% decline in orders in fourth-quarter 2005, compared to the same period in 2004;
Manufacturing operations continuing to move from North America; and
Concerns about the health of the U.S. economy, compared to when the previous market high was established in 1999.
Unease also extends to current problems faced by the automotive industry, since automotive manufacturers and their suppliers are the largest consumers of robots in North America. "All of these factors make us cautious about the expectations for 2006," Vincent explains, cautiously, but optimistically:. "Long-term growth will be fueled by the growing realization that robotics automation can help companies survive and prosper in an increasingly competitive global manufacturing environment," he says.