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Robot Sales Off 36% in North America through September

Robotic Industries Association

Non-Automotive Orders Fare Relatively Well

Ann Arbor, MI – New orders received by North American based robotics companies were down 36% through the first nine months of 2006, although non-automotive orders were down just three percent, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

‘‘With robot orders from the automotive sector down 49% so far this year, it’s no surprise we’re in the midst of a down year for the robotics industry,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of RIA.  ‘‘Automotive orders are traditionally quite cyclical and were at record levels last year.  We expect to see automotive orders turn up within the next year or two as automotive manufacturers and their suppliers ramp up spending for future new product launches.

‘‘However, in the overall down market, we’re encouraged by the relatively small decline in non-automotive orders.  In fact, we’ve seen modest growth in some sectors, including life sciences & pharmaceutical and plastics & rubber. 

Vincent said that 9,564 robots valued at $698.3 million were ordered by North American companies through September.  With orders outside of North America included, the totals are 10,338 robots valued at $740.1 million.

Material handling accounts for the largest share of robot applications, totaling about 41%.  Welding is next, at 39%.  Assembly and Dispensing/Coating each account for approximately six percent of new orders in 2006.

RIA estimates that some 164,000 robots are now installed in American factories. 

Vincent noted that while some North American companies are moving or considering moving their manufacturing operations offshore, others are looking at robotics as a way to remain globally competitive.

‘‘The flexibility, productivity and quality gains that robots help companies achieve are significant factors in convincing companies of all sizes to consider robots.  For many companies, it makes economic sense to invest in robotics rather than take the logistical, cultural, and talent pool risks of moving manufacturing operations overseas,’‘ Vincent explained.

He noted that RIA offers many educational resources designed to help companies automate, such as trade shows and conferences, focused workshops, in-house training, and free online tutorials.

‘‘RIA’s educational activities are key factors in nearly double digit membership growth in 2006,’‘ he said.  ‘‘We have attracted many new user members who take advantage of RIA resources in order to remain globally competitive.’‘

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 240 robotics manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms.  RIA’s quarterly statistics are based on information supplied by member companies and represent an estimated 90% of the North American robotics market.

For more information about RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.

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