US-China trade war less impacted the sector, China purchased 141.000 industrial robots in 2017. PRC is pushing itself into a high-end manufacturer and a leader in global innovation, and now Alibaba is en route to beating out Amazon in the path to automation.
China will dominate the world of robotics. We’re not in “Io Robot”, Isaac Asimov masterpiece. This is the real world and the so called Middle Country is ready to lead the sector. In June, Hong Kong and PRC engineers developed world’s first robotics system capable of performing brain surgery inside an MRI scanner.
Today, from Western countries to the Eastern one, many tasks in testing, developing or manufacturing are made by robots. For example, automotive and electronics industries already embraced IA as essential components for obtaining a competitive edge.
Since 1959, when american George Devol and Joseph Engelberger registered the first industrial robot ever, everything changed. This “artificial” creature able to lift a two-tonne kilos is already history, and new emerging countries are leading now – or will lead – the sector. One of this is China.
According to Chinese leadership, robotics will be a key cog in “Made in China 2025” strategy. PRC’s robot-maker will dominate their domestic market, thus the goal is to supply 50% of local demand by 2025, rising to 70% by 2025.
One of the main target of PRC’s “Made in China 2025” program is to guide China’s industrial modernization. This plan, launched by PM Li Keqiang in 2015, encourages Chinese companies and entrepreneurs to embrace atomation. So, it’s easy to understand how robotics plays an important role, among the key sectors of “Made in China 2025”.
Nevertheless Donald Trump trade team already put in act new sanctions against China, the sector is less impacted by Washington trade war as Chinese robot-maker companies have more European and Japan partners than American firms. US-China trade conflicts just affected Chinese companies in terms of orders, but Beijing will not stop moving forward.
While talks of robots taking over humans’ jobs are future-oriented for some industries, for logistics and e-commerce the adoption is happening as we speak. But this adoption isn’t globally heterogeneous.
The “Made in China 2025” initiative helps Chinese e-commerce and logistics companies adopt automation technologies faster than their Western counterparts. For other companies, such as German Deutsche Post DHL, the adoption has been more measured and human-friendly. Let’s take a look at how major global e-commerce and logistics players are integrating robotics and automation into their order fulfillment, logistics, and supply chain.
American e-commerce leader Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775 million, re-naming it Amazon Robotics. Amazon’s robots are mainly used for order fulfillment within its warehouses. Instructions are sent to Amazon’s fulfillment robots over WiFi supplying them with their next order, speed, and location, directing them where to go while preventing them from colliding with other robots on the floor.
If in the West, the announcement of automation technologies is most often accompanied by a disclaimer that robots will not be taking human jobs, in China it’s robots galore. With rapid rates of adoption, China is en route to beating out Amazon in the path to automation.
JD.com uses UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to ship packages through the air. Additionally, firms including S.F. Express, BEST Inc, and ZTO Express use automated sorting within their facilities – technologies that greatly helped them handle high volumes during shopping holiday, Single’s Day.
A comparative look at global shipping companies in the West versus China, reveals a trend. China has undoubtedly adopted automation technologies faster, thanks to financial and policy support from the central government. Western companies face high overhead when introducing new technologies to the supply chain, and some (such as UPS) are considering raising prices in conjunction with automation to buttress falling margins.
Interviewed by SMCP, Chen Hongbo, vice-president of Guangdong Jaten Robot & Automation, 13 year old company which produces automated guided vehicles (AGV), is optimistic about the future of automation
“We produce 3.000 AGVs per year in this factory, which are worth than US$ 47.3 million. Our robot can lift from 500 kg to 40 tons. With these products, we can make the logistics in factories and warehouse automated, unanimated”, said Mr. Chen.
It’s an irreversible trend to replace human labour with robot . China purchased 141.000 industrial robots in 2017, up 58.1 % year – on -year., but foreign imports account for nearly three-quarters of that. Chinese leadership wants turn this around with the “Made in china 2025” and turn PRC itself into a high-end manufacturer and a leader in global innovation in the next future.
Beijing is fully confident about the future of the market. The government already invested billion of dollars to renew plants and factories, and its ambitions for its industrial robotic and automation sector are great.
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