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Robotics Market Takes Off

Demand from automotive and metalworking industries drives record second quarter robot orders, trade group says.

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With robot orders hitting an all-time high in this year’s second quarter, North American robotics suppliers are on pace for a record year, according to figures released recently by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Ann Arbor, Mich.

The April-through-June quarter was the robotics industry’s best quarter ever, with 5,396 robots valued at $336 million ordered by North American manufacturing companies. “We’ve been tracking the industry on a quarterly basis since 1983, and can report that there were more robots ordered in the second quarter of 2005 than in any previous quarter,” said Donald A. Vincent, RIA executive vice president.

The second-quarter surge followed a strong first-quarter performance, producing a 33 percent jump in robot orders during this year’s first half, RIA figures show. A total of 10,712 robots valued at $638.9 million were ordered by North American companies from January through June. When orders from companies outside North America are included, overall sales for North American robot suppliers totaled 11,381 robots valued at $673.1 million in the first half of 2005. First-half shipments, meanwhile, jumped by 37 percent in units to 9,281, and by 24 percent in dollars to $587.9 million.

The rapid first-half expansion was led by demand for robots that perform applications such as material handling and arc welding. Orders in the automotive and metalworking industries were especially strong, the RIA reported.

“Experienced users such as the automotive manufacturers are now finding expanded uses for robots as they strive to reduce costs, improve productivity and speed time to market with their new products,” Vincent said. “New users are turning to robots to help them become globally competitive and to keep manufacturing jobs at home.”

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