Clinton, Mass.-based Nypro Inc. is merging its subsidiary Automated Assemblies Corp. into its in-house automation division and plans to exit the robot manufacturing business by selling Automated Assemblies' Raptor robot line.
Nypro is seeking a buyer for its high-speed, linear-axis robot line. The company has capacity to make about 300 robots per year.
The parent company said it will offer jobs to about half of Automated Assemblies' 40 employees.
Robots have become a commodity market, Nypro officials say, and as with so many other high-volume manufacturing segments, it is becoming more difficult for North American manufacturers to compete with countries that offer low-cost labor.
``This has never been a mass-production operation,'' Nypro spokesman Al Cotton said July 19 by telephone. ``We're not in a position to compete in the commodity marketplace.''
The robot business has changed dramatically in the past 20 years.
``Ten years ago, less than 5 percent of machines had robots on them,'' he said. ``Now, everybody needs robots to compete. Companies that haven't automated are going out of business. With the number of robots being sold, it's now a standard, off-the-shelf product.''
It no longer is viable to try to compete in the robot market solely on product, said John Campbell, national sales manager for Ranger Automation Systems Inc., a Shrewsbury, Mass.-based competitor to the Nypro unit.
``Machine makers are focused on providing value-added service,'' Campbell said July 19. ``Unless you can differentiate that way, you become perceived as just one of the suppliers.
``It comes down to what services you can provide to support your products. That's the only way we're surviving in the market.''
Robot sales dipped 30 percent in the first quarter of this year - the most recent data available from the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Robotic Industries Association. The trade group cited troubles in the automotive industry as the primary reason for the decline. The auto industry accounts for about 60 percent of all North American robot sales.
Newly appointed Nypro chief Ted Lapres said in a news release that the firm is in ``active negotiations'' regarding the sale of the Raptor robot line. He expects to close a deal in the fourth quarter.