Business / Industries

Enumerating the efficiency of robots

By He Wei in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-23 09:25

Explosive market

Wang said a typical industrial robot costs around 300,000 yuan and has annual maintenance costs of 20,000 yuan. The total layout of 500,000 yuan over 10 years is considerably less than that for a 6,000-yuan-a-month technician - and robots can work three times more efficiently.

In general, robots fall into two categories - industrial and service, according to a definition provided by the International Federation of Robotics, an industry alliance based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Industrial robots are used in industrial automation applications, while service robots are usually found in the fields of medicine, inspection and maintenance systems, but they also have personal and domestic uses.

However, the revenue from service robots is meager compared with that of industrial robots. In 2012, the industrial robot market was worth $8.5 billion, while service robots accounted for just $636 million.

"Robots are efficient. They can work 24 hours a day, offer more output in repetitive work, are much more accurate and keep manufacturers away from a reliance on human labor," said Reuter.

An automation boom among Chinese manufacturers has spelled tremendous opportunities for KUKA, which controls 20 percent of China's robotics market.

According to Reuter, sales in China reached 2 billion yuan last year, which accounted for one-fifth of KUKA's overall revenue.

The new assembly line in Shanghai is designed to mass-produce the KR Quantec robot series and the KR C4 universal controllers, which were launched in 2011 and widely applied in the automotive industry.

It has more than 30 regular Chinese suppliers for the manufacturing base, which applies equally high standards throughout the world.

While originally designed to serve all Asian markets, Reuter predicted that production from the new factory will barely be enough to feed the soaring demand for robotics in China.

Two driving forces propelled KUKA to deploy its China strategy with greater ambition.

One was a recent government call to push ahead with urbanization, enabling the older, rural population to enjoy a modern lifestyle similar to their city peers. That generates huge demand for domestic automized facilities.

The other is the ever-expanding demand from Chinese original equipment manufacturers, where automakers such as Great Wall Motors Co Ltd and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd rose to become prominent businesses and created the need for the next level of a surge in automation accordingly.

"Apart from the auto industry, the glass industry and art welding are the next bright spots," he said.

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