iRobot Lays Off About 55 Staff in Advance of Q3 Earnings Report

[Updated 4:35 pm] Bedford, MA-based iRobot laid off about 55 people last week from its government and industrial robots division, Xconomy has learned. I heard from a source familiar with the company that some of the layoffs came to light because ex-employees posted on social media looking for new positions. An iRobot spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The staff cuts come as the pioneering robotics company (NASDAQ: IRBT) announced its third quarter financial results this afternoon. The press release mentions that the company “implemented a reduction in force” because of “expectations for a reduction in government-funded research in 2012.” There is an earnings conference call scheduled for 8:30 am Eastern Time tomorrow.

The last significant layoff at iRobot was back in 2008, but this one is bigger, according to my source. The latest staff reduction is also notable because it affects the biggest division in the company—the one that houses some of its most famous products, like the PackBot military robot.

I have heard that iRobot has roughly 550 employees, which would make the layoff about 10 percent of the firm’s total workforce. Those numbers are not confirmed, however.

In the past year, Xconomy has reported on iRobot’s progress and expansion in Michigan, among other things. It’s not yet clear in which cities the staff cuts have occurred.

[Updated with comments from iRobot] A company spokesperson just confirmed the layoffs, but with slightly different numbers: “We can confirm that iRobot Corporation has had a reduction in force. This difficult action was taken based on our current view of future defense spending and a shift in program structure. In 2012 we see a significant decrease in our externally funded research and development. This transition from development to production requires our Government and Industrial robot division to reduce the size of its workforce. The reduction accounted for approximately 8 percent of the total workforce.

“We will be addressing this on the call tomorrow.”

[Updated 5:40 pm] iRobot has confirmed that 55 full-time employees were let go from the company’s offices in Bedford, MA; Durham, NC; and San Luis Obispo, CA.

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