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Automation: Robotics orders jump 41% in first half of 2011

Fueled by its best quarter in six years, the North American robotics industry jumped 41% in the first half of 2011, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group.
By Modern Materials Handling Staff
August 01, 2011

Fueled by its best quarter in six years, the North American robotics industry jumped 41% in the first half of 2011, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group.

A total of 8879 robots valued at $577.8 million were ordered by North American companies in the first six months of the year. When orders from outside North America are added, the totals are 10,476 robots valued at $667.9 million. “This was the best first half for our industry since 2007,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA.

The second quarter was particularly strong, posting gains of 50% in units and 55% in dollars over the same period in 2010.

Burnstein attributed the majority of growth to increased orders from automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, traditionally the largest customer for robotics. “With the revitalization of the auto industry in the US, robot orders to these customers rose 60% in the first half of the year,” he said.

Non-automotive orders increased 23% through June, led by gains in metalworking (up 70%).

Burnstein said some non-automotive customers who were slow to purchase robots in the first quarter accelerated their buying in the second quarter of the year.

“Food and Consumer goods customers placed orders for 60% more robots in the second quarter of 2011 than in the first, hopefully a sign of strong growth going forward in this sector,” he noted.

“The North American robotics industry is on pace for its best year since 2005 in terms of new order volumes, but this could be threatened if there is an economic downturn caused by the lack of an agreement in Washington on raising the debt ceiling,” Burnstein observed.

Burnstein did cite one recent positive development from Washington, the creation of a $500 million Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that includes $70 million for a National Robotics Initiative.

“This could have a very positive long-term effect in keeping the US a leader in robotics, both inside the factory and in a wide-range of non-industrial robotics sectors,” he said.

RIA estimates that some 205,000 robots are now used in the United States. More than one million industrial robots are used worldwide.

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 265 companies, including leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms. RIA’s quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing an estimated 90% of the North American market.

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