New robot orders fall 30 percent in first quarter

June 13, 2006

According to statistics released by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Ann Arbor, Mich, new orders for North American robotics companies fell 30 percent in the first quarter of 2006.

A 39 percent decline in purchases by automotive OEMs and component suppliers was the major contributor to the downturn. The automotive industry is the largest customer for robotics, accounting for more than 60 percent of all robot purchases in North America.

Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA, attributes the decline to the cyclical nature of robotics purchasing by OEMs and their Tier 1 supplier markets.

"We saw a big spike in automotive OEM and Tier 1 purchases at the beginning of 2005, so we're not surprised to see a downturn this quarter. Also, given the economic difficulties faced by the automotive industry, it is possible that new investments in technologies such as robotics were delayed," Vincent said.

Vincent said he was encouraged that sales of robots to nonautomotive industries such as food, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences rose to 40 percent in the first quarter.

"For the robotics industry to reach its full potential we know that growth is needed in the nonautomotive sectors as well as in automotive, so the increased share for nonautomotive orders can be viewed as a positive sign," Vincent added.

A total of 3,722 robots valued at $272 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies in the first quarter. Orders from outside North America bring the total to 3,983 robots valued at $285.3 million.

An estimated 160,000 robots are installed in U.S. factories, placing it second to Japan in robot use.