North American robotics shipments up, orders down

In a report released this week, the Robotic Industries Association said that for the first nine months of the year, North American robotics orders have declined while shipments have risen.

A total of 15,731 robots valued at $978.5 million were ordered from North American companies in the first nine months of 2013, a decrease of 3.9 percent in units and 10.9 percent in dollars from the same period in 2012.

The group attributes the decrease largely to a cyclical decline in automotive orders, which are down 22 percent year to date. Sales to component suppliers have remained flat and non-automotive industries — including life sciences, semiconductors, and food and consumer goods — have posted double-digit growth.

Shipments, however, broke records for the first nine months, which were set just last year. A total of 17,645 robots valued at $1.1 billion were shipped to North American customers through September, besting 2012 by 14.6 percent in units and 9 percent in dollars.

RIA estimates that about 232,000 robots are in use in United States factories, placing the U.S. behind only Japan. However, the group still sees room for growth.

“Many observers believe that only about 10 percent of the U.S. companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” Jeff Burnstein, the group’s president, said in a release. “A very large segment of small and medium sized companies who may have the most to gain are just now beginning to seriously investigate robotics.”

RIA’s quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing about 90 percent of the North American market.

[ photo courtesy of KUKA Robotics ]