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A Robot Buying Spree

Sept. 17, 2007
New orders received by North American-based robot companies rose 39% in the first half of 2007.

Industry is buying. The evidence: New orders received by North American-based robot companies rose 39% in the first half of 2007, says the Robotic Industry Association (RIA). North American-based robot suppliers sold nearly 10,000 robots through June, valued at $563.2 million.

The April to June quarter was very strong, with increases of 60% in units and 24% in revenue over the comparable period in 2006.

The 2007 gains can be traced primarily to a 76% jump in orders to automobile manufacturers and their suppliers. "Automotive industry buying patterns for robots are quite cyclical, and this year we're seeing the upswing," says Jeffrey A. Burnstein, RIA executive vice president.

Non-automotive orders declined 5%, though gains were reported in robot sales to healthcare/pharmaceutical companies (13%), food and consumer goods producers (11%), as well as a number of other industries, include beverage and tobacco, apparel, wood products, paper, printing, machinery, and furniture manufacturers. Robotic automation in the pharmaceutical sector is projected to reach $2.5 billion in 2008, says BCC Research. A recent win by Adept Technology Inc. involves a $1.4 million order for automating prescription drug fulfillment.

In distribution and order fulfillment, robots are delivering the advantage of flexible automation, says Mick Mountz, CEO of Kiva Systems."We're happy to see some of the non-automotive markets growing, but would like to see this extended to areas such as semiconductors and electronics, metals, and plastics and rubber -- all of which show declines through June," Burnstein explains.

In terms of applications, spot welding orders posted the largest increase in the first six months of the year (150%), followed by coating and dispensing (38%) and material handling (25%). "This is what you would expect to see when the automotive industry is ramping up its robot orders," Burnstein points out.

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