BEIJING - The SAIC-GM automobile production floor in Shanghai might remind you of the movie"Transformers."
Giant yellow robotic arms are busy welding parts. The whole car body can be assembled bythese robotic arms and human employees just sit in front of computer screens and type ininstructions.
China's auto industry was quick to take up automation, but other industries are rapidly catchingup. From assembling keyboards to sticking on labels, factories across China are replacingworkers with robots in the ongoing government-backed, automation-driven industrial revolution.
With costs rising and profits shrinking, Chinese manufacturers have realized that they have totransition from the current labor-oriented mode to automation to survive and thrive as thepopulation ages.
Improving quality, reducing costs, lifting productivity and ensuring sustainable growth are theeternal pursuits for manufacturers and the key is in technology. Robots can help factories achievethis, according to Gu Chunyuan, head of China business with ABB Group, a global leader inrobotics.
Once the "world's factory," China is experiencing slower growth, especially in the manufacturingsector amid tepid global demand. The government rolled out an ambitious plan last year toupgrade the manufacturing sector to move upward along the global industrial chain and boosteconomic growth.
The application of new industrial systems, including robotics, will help improve enterprises'productivity by up to 25 percent, creating added value worth 6 trillion yuan ($91.4 million),according to recent research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The central leadership called for a "robot revolution" last year in acknowledgement ofautomation's vital role in raising productivity. Authorities have announced measures such assubsidies and tax incentives over the past few years to encourage industrial automation as wellas development of the domestic robotics industry.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in April released a developmentblueprint for robotics-market growth in the next five years, which aims to have about 800,000robots in stock by 2020 and achieve breakthroughs in high-end robots in areas such as surgeryor nursing.
Since 2013, China has bought more industrial robots each year than any other country and isexpected to be the world's biggest operator of industrial robots in 2018, according to theInternational Federation of Robotics.
There is plenty more room for market growth. China has about 36 robots for every 10,000 factoryworkers compared with about 478 in the Republic of Korea and 164 in the United States,according to MIT Technology Review.
China is home to about 800 companies producing or assembling robots, however, most of themonly make low-end products.
We have noticed trends of low-tech utilization and development of robots in the sector, and theindustry might be flushed with inefficient investment, according to Xin Guobin, deputy head withMIIT.
Chinese companies are taking action to catch up with global pioneers. Agic Capital, theChinese-European private equity fund launched last year, bought Gimatic, an Italian supplier ofrobotic end-of-arm tools, in mid June. Midea, a Guangdong-based appliance maker launched a4.5 billion euros offer this month for Kuka, a globally renowned robot producer that servescustomers such as Audi, BMW and Boeing.