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U.S. Manufacturing Technology orders for the month of September totaled $397.57 million, according to The Association for Manufacturing Technology, in the latest USMTO survey of participating companies. That figure was up 5.8% from August but down 31.1% when compared with the total of $577.17 million for September 2012, and down 11.3% year-to-date ($3,507.71 million) compared with the same period 2012.

Clare Goldsberry

November 13, 2013

3 Min Read
Manufacturing technology orders & robotics shipments have mixed results

Douglas K. Woods, President of AMT, stated, "The year-over-year decline was anticipated due to the typical high volume during an IMTS (International Machine Tool Show) year, which we saw in September 2012. A recent uptick in factory orders shows strong activity in a number of industries, particularly aerospace, which is forecast to grow more than 10% in the coming year. We also expect growth in automotive and energy, good news for manufacturing overall."

Reports for the six geographic regions show that regions declining in September included the Northeast region (down 1.1% compared to August's orders and down 30% when compared with September 2012); the Southeast region (down 19.5% compared with September 2012).

Regions showing a September increase in orders included the North Central-East region, with orders up by 10.8% in September but down 27.8% compared with September 2012; North Central-West region with orders up 3.2% over August, but 52.6% less than the September 2012 total and at $646.78 million, the 2013 YTD total is 16.1% less than the total for the same period of 2012. The South Central region with September orders 13.0% higher than August 2013 orders, but 22.5% lower than in September 2012.

The West region was level with the YTD total a year ago of $509.26 million.

Woods notes that the gain in the USMTO survey "indicates that manufacturers are making capital investments," and projects these gains to grow in 2014.

The Robotics Industry Association (RIA) released its figures for the first three quarters of 2013, showing a mixed bag as well. While North American robotic shipments are up, orders are down through the first nine months of this year. Shipments to North American customers through September totaled 17,645 robots valued at $1.1 billion, breaking the previous first nine month records set in 2012 by 14.6% in units and 9.0% in dollars.

The RIA's report noted that sales activity continued to be especially strong in non-automotive industries such as life sciences, semiconductors, and food & consumer goods, all of which posted double digit growth through September. The decrease in orders can largely be attributed ot the decrease in sales to the highly cyclical automotive industry. Robot orders from automotive OEMs are down 22.0% YTD, while sales to component suppliers have remained flat.

"While the decrease in orders to the automotive segment has had a large impact on the new order numbers, we are still encouraged by the growth in non-automotive industries," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. "Many non-automotive applications in such areas as medical and space robotics will be explored at the upcoming Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando, Jan. 22-24, 2014. The robotics market in North America is branching out, and it's an exciting time for our industry."

RIA estimates that approximately 232,000 robots are now in use in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use. "Many observers believe that only about 10% of the U.S. companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far," Burnstein said. "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."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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