14 May 2002
N.A. robot sales rise in Q1
Ann Arbor, Mich. - North American robotics sales, hammered like other capital equipment markets for more than a year by the economic downturn, showed signs of stabilizing in the first quarter of 2002, reports the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
The trade association said a total of 2,350 robots were ordered by North American customers through March, an increase of 1% over the comparable period in 2001. It marked the first upturn for robotics sales in North America since midway through 2001. However, weakness in sales to overseas markets led to an overall decline of 2% in new robot orders received by North American robotics companies.
''While one quarter's results can't assure us that the bottom for robot sales has been hit, we're hopeful that the worst is behind us now,'' said Donald A. Vincent, RIA executive vice president, who noted first quarter results in 2001 trailed the previous year by 36%. ''2002 is certainly off to a better start than last year with important signs of stability emerging.''
Bright signs observed by Vincent included increased sales of robots used for spot welding, arc welding and dispensing and coating. Those applications are frequently found in the automotive industry, which is the largest customer for robotics.
''A sustained increase in orders from automotive manufacturers and suppliers would be a great shot in the arm for the robotics industry,'' said Vincent.
RIA estimates some 120,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, making the U.S. the world's second largest robot user, trailing only Japan.
Founded in 1974, RIA has 250 member companies include leading robot manufacturers, system integrators, component suppliers, users, research groups and consulting firms.
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