Business / Industries

Robot factories China's answer to labor shortage

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-05-08 14:35

"Though the initial investment in automation is huge, we are confident it will pay off in the coming years," Qu said.

Government support

Central and local governments are also chipping in to help manufacturing companies in their automation drive.

Official data show the number of robots installed in the Pearl River delta registered an annual increase of 30 to 50 percent in recent years.

The provincial government of Guangdong has decided to invest 943 billion yuan ($152 billion) to replace human laborers with robots in three years.

According to an action plan published in March, the province will see robots used at 1,950 companies across industries like automobile, home appliance, textile, electronics and construction materials manufacturing by 2017.

The municipal government of Dongguan has also set up a 600-million-yuan fund to encourage local companies to install robots in the next three years, with replacing subsidies up to 15 percent.

In Dongguan, a 4.2 billion yuan robot replacement program will help local factories save more than 30,000 workers. Cost for such replacement could be recovered in two years, according to local authorities.

Nurturing the domestic robot industry

Despite huge demand, China lags behind in robotic technology, and its robot manufacturing relies heavily on importation of key ingredients.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), foreign companies like Swiss robot maker ABB, Germany's Kuka and Japan's Fanuc account for more than 70 percent of China's robotics market.

China will buy another 1.55 to 3.44 million units of industrial robots in the next few years, meaning the country will eventually become the largest robotics market in the world, according to a 2014 report released by the IFR.

Su Bo, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said in 2014 that China will strive to make breakthroughs in key robotics technologies.

Last year, Guangzhou set the goals of fostering a 100 billion yuan robot-making industry and having 80 percent of the city's manufacturing done by robots by 2020.

The province also plans to build two advanced industrial bases for robot production by the end of 2017.

"Rising demand for robots will definitely draw more investment to the industry and encourage domestic innovation," said Li Yuewei, marketing director of a robotics technology company based in Shenzhen.

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