North American robotics companies post strongest opening quarter ever

Unit orders increased 14.5% over the same period in 2012, and 10% above the previous first quarter record set in 2005.

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North American robotics companies shattered previous opening quarter records for robots ordered and shipped in the first quarter of 2013, according to new statistics released from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 5,833 robots valued at $341.2 million were ordered from North American robotics companies through March, an increase of 14.5% in units over the same period in 2012 and 10% above the previous first quarter record set in 2005.

First quarter shipments to North American customers totaled 5,736 robots valued at $369.5, breaking the previous records for an opening quarter set in 2012 by 24.6% in units and 23.3% in dollars.

The activity was especially strong in automotive components, food and consumer goods, semiconductor and electronics, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, and plastics and rubber, all of which posted double digit growth year over year.

“It is great to see the record demand for robots continuing into 2013, following our record-breaking year in 2012,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. “While activity continues to be strong with automotive OEMs and tier suppliers, the real story is the resurgence of other industries. Non-automotive orders grew 15% over 2012.”

The biggest unit growth in applications came from arc welding (46.2%) and material handling (25.1%), both of which have historically been two of the strongest applications for robotics.

RIA estimates that some 228,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use. “Many observers believe that only about 10% of the US companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” Burnstein said, “and among those that have the most to gain from robots are small and medium sized companies.”

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 300 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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