The North American robotics industry is booming, reporting its best first half since 2007, according to new statistics released by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI. Robotics industry sales jumped 41% in the first half of 2011, with the number of robots sold to North American companies totaling 8879, with a value of $577.8 million. When orders for the industry from outside North America are added, the totals come to 10,476 robots valued at $667.9 million. "This was the best first half for our industry since 2007," said Jeff Burnstein, RIA president.
The second quarter of 2011 was "particularly strong" reported the RIA, with gains posted of 50% in units and 55% in dollars over the same period in 2010. Burnstein attributed the majority of growth to increased orders from the automotive OEMs and their suppliers, traditionally the largest customer for robotics. "With the revitalization of the auto industry in the U.S., robot orders to these customers rose 60% in the first half of the year," he said.
Non-automotive orders increased 23% through June, led by gains in metalworking which was up 70%. Some non-automotive customers who were slow to purchase robots in the first quarter accelerated their buying in the second quarter, which helped boost Q2 gains to the best in six years. "Food and consumer goods customers placed orders for 60% more robots in the second quarter of 2011 than in the first, hopefully a sign of strong growth going forward in this sector," he noted.
"The North American robotics industry is on pace for its best year since 2005 in terms of new order volumes," Burnstein said, adding that in spite of the debt ceiling debate that raged in Washington, one positive note from inside the beltway was 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 said.