Last year was good for the robotics industry as North American manufacturing companies purchased 14,838 robots valued at nearly $1 billion in 2004. This was a 20% rise in units over 2003 and the industry's second-best unit total ever, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Ann Arbor, Mich.
"It's clear more companies recognize that robots can play a key role in keeping manufacturing jobs in North America," says Donald A. Vincent, RIA's executive vice president. "As the capabilities of robots have increased and the overall costs have fallen, manufacturing in North America using robots is an increasingly viable alternative to sending manufacturing jobs overseas to low-cost producers."
Orders by North American automotive manufacturers and suppliers to the auto industry accounted for about 64% of the total in 2004, down from 68% in 2003. Vincent believes this is a strong indicator that robots are gaining traction in a range of nonautomotive companies in industries such as aerospace and electronics.
RIA estimates that approximately 144,000 robots are now being used in the U.S., placing it second only to Japan in terms of robot use.