Business / Companies

ABB to produce service robots in China

By Zhong Nan in Wuhan (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-19 11:03

ABB Group, the Swiss power and automation company, has pledged to produce more service robots in China to keep up with growing demand.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, its chief executive officer, said such products can be used effectively across a huge range of services, from cleaning and assembly operations within the chemical and automotive sectors, to working at height or at depth, where human workers face safety risks.

"We will not only focus on industrial robot research and development in China, but also deploying more resources to develop more types of robot," said Spiesshofer.

As the Chinese population has grown wealthier, and more people live in cities, many service and labor-intensive industries have started to struggle to find sufficient numbers of workers, and have seen rising employee turnover rates.

The country's automotive, chemical, communication and consumer electronics product manufacturing sectors have been among the hardest hit, putting growing pressure on companies to increase their investment in fully automating factories.

The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics show the value added of China's service sector expanded 7.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, 1.8 percentage points faster than the manufacturing sector, and now accounts for 56.9 percent of gross domestic product, 19.4 percentage points higher than the secondary sector.

The service sector now contributes 63.5 percent of national economic growth, 29.3 percentage points higher than the manufacturing sector.

Spiesshofer said ABB's plans to expand its advanced robotic technology capability in the service industry is in line with the government's flagship "Made in China 2025" strategy, which is aimed at upgrading the country's economic structure.

He claims that with 80 percent of its robot models, and 90 percent of all its robots sold in China already locally produced, ABB is the only multinational to "localize" its robotics value chain, including research and development, production, sales, engineering and services.

The Swiss firm employs 18,000 in China and operates 40 local firms across a sales and service network in 147 cities. It also has plans, he said, to establish a robotics application center in the industrial hub of Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei province.

And it is working hard at building close ties with local universities and research institutes to develop new growth drivers in the region's fast-growing automotive, shipbuilding and railway transportation markets.

Zhang Bin, chief expert in world economic forecasting and policy simulation at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the efficient use of robots will play a crucial role in China's future economy.

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