Overseas robot makers are increasing their investments in robot production in China, where demand keeps growing faster than anywhere else. Part of that growth is due to the growing automation in manufacturing. CCTV’s Zhang Tao reports.
Growing Robot Production in ChinaOverseas robot makers are increasing their investments in robot production in China, where demand keeps growing faster than anywhere else. Part of that growth is due to the growing automation in manufacturing. CCTV’s Zhang Tao reports.
This digital screen reminds factory workers how many robots they have to make every day, week, and month. The growing customer demand here is one reason the company opened its first-ever factory outside its German home base.
Kong Bing, CEO of KUKA Robotics China, tells the reporter: “The biggest problem is that importing robots from Europe is very time consuming, given that the demand here is so big. And customers are asking for an even shorter transportation period. So we opened a factory in Shanghai to meet the demand here. Compared to the shipping, we can save up to four or five weeks.”
A robotics industry organization says Chinese companies bought around 25,000 industrial robots last year. That’s a 12 percent growth over 2012. One reason is that while the Chinese automobile industry buys nearly half the robots, sales to non-auto manufacturers grew by 22 percent last year. Kong says that increasing automation of other industries means an emerging business area for his company.
Kong Bing also says: “Besides the auto industry, some others such as electronic equipment makers, foundries, food and drink makers, and machine tool manufacturers are all buying a lot of robots. While auto production is now very mature, and the robots used don’t change a lot, the new industries are asking for a package of solutions rather than just a robot. We have to see what their production lines are like at first, and then find a solution for installing the robots. So we work with a lot of partners in China to re-develop our basic models to meet the customer’s needs.”
Kuka’s biggest rival has also tried to localize its business in China. ABB opened a research and development center in 2005 and says it will invest 2 billion Yuan in a production center in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen. Overseas business giants dominate the China market, and accounted for 90 percent of the robots sold here last year. But the Chinese government won’t let them eat up the entire market. Robot expert Xu Chunquan returned to China last year after 11 years in Japan. He says China is now doing more government-sponsored robotics research than it did when he left.
Professor Xu Chunquan from Tongji University says: “In the past, research results barely met the demand from the companies. Now, China is beginning to encourage enterprises and universities to work closely to develop robots– by investing at least 10 million Yuan in every research project.”
A Chinese industrial research company says there were an estimated 120,000 industrial robots in China last year – more than any other country except Japan and the United States. Some analysts predict that China will be number one in terms of robots in use by 2016.