An advanced exhibition is currently underway in Beijing. At the show, leaders within the robot industry are showcasing the best technology that can currently be found. The robot industry offers strong potential for growth. Currently the industry is within an innovation stage and profits are low. Many companies are operating at a loss, yet with technological improvements, large profits will certainly be made.
High costs associated with advanced robotics create a longer payback period. Factories over consumers should see a quicker return, as small increases in efficiencies can result in large cost savings. Problems encountered by Chinese factories could be solved by implementing advanced robotics. Factories are continuously hitting their capacity limits, an issue that would be solved by increased automation. Chinese manufacturers will welcome the large-scale introduction of robots, which are almost certain to create larger profits.
The World Robot Conference in Beijing displayed glimpses into the future of a young industry that is seeing amazing innovation. Practical uses could be seen in the form of robots sorting computer chips and sanding cell phone cases. It was easy to feel that in a short amount of time many companies will custom build robots for specific purposes. One size will not fit all. Additionally, loading vehicles and packaging goods could be suitable areas for robot manufacturers to explore. Domestic cleaning robots were also on display. Hotels and the service industry would greatly benefit from the mainstream introduction of such machines. If robot manufacturers are able to implement professional uses within their designs, they may see a quick adoption of the technology.
The government’s commitment to making robotics a focal point indicates the existence of an upcoming robot industry revolution. Set within the “Made in China 2025” plan, a national target of achieving 150 robots for every 10,000 employees is in place. Furthermore, the country has outlined a goal of producing 100,000 industrial robots annually. Anecdotal evidence includes the view point of Steve Wyatt, acting head of ABB Robotics, who states that its Chinese division has grown to more than 1600 employees.
Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer responsible for producing the iPhone, reportedly has 40,000 robots operating within its factories. Hence, the scope appears huge.
The idea represented by a robotic workforce has received scepticism. If robots start to take the jobs of citizens, then potentially millions could be without work. On the other hand, a society with fewer menial jobs should help encourage a more skilled workforce. Mass scale implementation of robots comes with many drawbacks and positives. Whether or not it would be beneficial to the majority of workers will remain unknown until it happens.
Unskilled manufacturing jobs are already starting to leave China. An increasingly costly labour force means factories are starting to pop up in competing Asian counties. China is becoming a less attractive destination for manufacturing investment. In contrast, a robotic workforce that enables the country to compete again with fine margins may actually save jobs. Furthermore, robots and autonomous machines will need regular servicing – a task performed by skilled employees who should be more beneficial to the economy.
Chinese robot producers still need to catch up with world industry leaders such as Japan. The innovation on display is impressive, and is an encouraging sign. With China sitting at 28th in the world in terms of robot density, the targets set by the Chinese government should see the country quickly rise. This commitment to embracing the robotic future continues to underline China’s desire to become a more specialised manufacturing country. If the country continues to strive towards such a goal, the need for higher skilled workers and better education will be greater than ever. If China wants to become the world’s biggest economy, or simply continue the strong growth it has seen in recent decades, this is an industry it needs to embrace. The World Robot Conference signals the beginning of a new era. The fact that Beijing is hosting the event ensures that the world can see China’s dedication to technology.
In conclusion, the potential is clear. Rather than a rapid implementation, the adoption will take time. Companies will invest only if it makes financial sense; therefore, until innovation combines with purpose, the future hasn’t arrived just yet. We live in exciting times, and the way factories look today may be completely different from what they will look like in ten years.