Canadian Packaging

Robot sales rise high

North American robot orders jump 41 per cent in first half of 2011.


August 2, 2011
by Canadian Packaging Staff

Fueled by a second quarter that was its best in six years, the North American robotics industry jumped by a whopping 41 per cent in the first half of 2011.

In the statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a total of 8,879 robots valued at US$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,” notes Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA.

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

According to Burnstein, most of the growth comes from an increase in orders from the automotive industry—from both manufacturers and suppliers, who are traditionally the largest robotics customer.

“With the revitalization of the auto industry in the US, robot orders to these customers rose 60 per cent in the first half of the year,” he says.

 Non-automotive orders increased 23 per cent through June, led by gains up to 70 per cent in metalworking.

Not to be outdone, however, Burnstein notes that some non-automotive customers who were slow to purchase robots in the first quarter accelerated their buying in the second quarter of the year.

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

Regarding the robotics industry as a whole, Burnstein believes it is heading for its best year since 2005 because of new volume orders. But, he did temper the excitement with a warning: “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 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 U.S. a leader in robotics, both inside the factory and in a wide-range of non-industrial robotics sectors,” he explains.

The RIA estimates that some 205,000 robots are now used in the U.S., and more than one million industrial robots are used worldwide.

About the Robotic Industries Association

Founded in 1974, the Association represents some 265 companies, including leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms.  Its quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing an estimated 90 per cent of the North American market.
For more information on RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.robotics.org or call 734-994-6088.