Report: Robots Thrive In Industry As Labor Costs Grow

By Agence France-Presse Worldwide sales of industrial robots surged to record levels in the first half of 2004 after equipment prices fell while labor costs grew, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said. In its annual survey of world robotics, the UNECE said the number of robots in operation in industry exceeded the 800,000 mark for the first time at the end of 2003, reaching 800,772. The growth continued this year with an 18% increase in orders worldwide in the first six months of 2004 compared with the same period last year. "Falling or stable robot prices, increasing labor costs and continuously improved technology are major driving forces which speak for massive robot investment in industry," said survey author Jan Karlsson. In 2003 the world market for robots grew by 19% to 81,800 units fueled by broad-based demand, the survey showed. The survey highlighted sharp falls in the cost of robots relative to labor costs in Germany and in North America. Robotics prices in the United States have fallen on average to about 44% of what they were in 1990 on an index compiled by UNECE. Meanwhile, indices for labor compensation in manufacturing have risen by 63%, according to the survey. The United States lagged well behind other industrial powerhouses, with about half the robot density in industry of Europe. The UNECE forecast that industry's reliance on robotics should continue to grow with 997,000 units in use by 2007. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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