Motoman Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Japanese robot maker Yaskawa Electric Co., said it may set up a manufacturing facility in the United States.
The firm currently builds all its robots in Japan, but is considering Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky as possible U.S. manufacturing sites, company officials said at the Plastics USA show, held Sept. 28-30 in Chicago.
Specific details, such as the plant's size, have yet to be worked out, said Carl Traynor, senior marketing director at the U.S. arm's West Carrollton, Ohio, headquarters. But the plant would likely produce several thousand robots a year to augment the 15,000 produced annually at its Japanese factories, he said.
The investment would likely be at least $10 million, and company officials hope to make a decision within a year, Traynor said.
The company is negotiating with government officials for incentives. For example, Traynor said Yaskawa officials met with Ohio Gov. Bob Taft on his recent trade mission to Japan.
The company needs additional manufacturing capacity because its business is strong, and it wants to shorten lead times for delivery, he said. Motoman sales were up 35 percent in 2003 and 25 percent this year, well above industry averages - and putting the company back above sales levels in 2000, before the economy soured, Traynor said.
Motoman manufactured robots at a facility in Troy, Ohio, for several years in the mid- to late 1990s, but stopped when Japan's currency dropped sharply and it became more cost-effective to do all the work there, said Jack Justice, market segment manager for robotic systems. At the time, the Troy plant required an upgrade costing several million dollars.
While the currency situation has not changed much, demand is such that the firm wants to manufacture in the United States as well, he said.
In other news, the company said at the show it was introducing an Ethernet connection between its robots and vision testing equipment that improves speed, reduces costs and makes the equipment easier to use.