Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Robot orders down 30% through September

November 11, 2009
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

North American robotics companies saw orders for new robots decline 30 percent in units and 43 percent in dollars in the first nine months of 2009, according to new figures from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 7,172 robots valued at US$425.8 million have been ordered by North American manufacturing companies through September, compared with 2008 nine month totals of 10,279 robots valued at US$743.4 million.

Steep declines are evident in sales to automotive OEMs and their suppliers, historically the largest purchasers of robots, with units off 29 percent and dollars 44 percent through September compared with 2008.

Orders by non-automotive customers are also down sharply — 32 percent in units and 41 percent in dollars. “The North American robotics industry is facing its stiffest test in more than two decades right now as it intensifies its efforts to reach a wide-range of non-automotive customers to offset the cutbacks by the automotive industry,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA.


“While robotics companies are not alone in suffering big declines in automotive orders, we are impacted to a greater extent than many industries since automotive customers traditionally account for more than 60 percent of new robot orders in North America. Through the first nine months of 2009, units sold to automotive customers account for just 54 percent of new orders, while the dollars from these automotive customers account for just 49 percent, likely the lowest figure ever,” Burnstein explained.

Tammy Mulcahy of ABB Robotics and chair of the RIA’s statistics committee said that there are a few bright spots in the numbers. “Orders from life sciences customers are up 14 percent through September, while orders from food & consumer goods customers are up 12 percent,” she noted.

“While these are relatively small markets in North America at this time, they are two that hold strong growth potential and we’re glad to see them growing even during this unprecedented downturn for robotics and other capital equipment purchases,” Mulcahy asserted. “We also noted that overall orders were up 42 percent in units and 24 percent in dollars over the second quarter of 2009. While I’m hesitant to say that this means the worst is behind us, we’re obviously pleased at this strong upturn,” she added.

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