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Dongguan robotics companies bring competitive edge


03-24-2017 14:00 BJT

Full coverage: 2017 Boao Forum

(Source: CGTN)

China employs the most robots in the world. But Chinese robotics firms can only satisfy a small sliver of the country's appetite for this technology. This may change soon as the development of the robotics industry is now part of the government's national strategy.

Have you ever wondered how your smartphone protection case is made? Well, in this factory located in the city of Dongguan, robotic machines engulf plastic raw material -- and make one case every 2 and a half minutes. And the numbers are bound to startle you, it takes a mere 38 robots to make a whopping 50 million cases for Huawei smart phones every year. This automated factory was built in 2015 aiming to offset the rising salary of workers.

"The automatic machines can reduce by 90 percent the use of human labor. In the past, ten machines would require ten operators. But now, it only needs one person," Guo Qiusheng, vice general manager with Guangdong Silver Basis Tech., said.

With more manufacturing companies opting to take the high-tech route, it's no surprise China has become the world's largest robot market.

In 2015, over 68,000 industrial robots were sold in China. That means, one in every three robots across the world were sold to China. But Chinese robot companies only account for 8 percent of the market.

This huge gap is making robot companies the new favorite in the Chinese capital market. Topstar, a robot company in Dongguan, was recently listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, raising over 300 million yuan, or about 45 million US dollars. And that money will without a doubt further the industry, as it was quickly invested into company expansion -- building new factories and increasing capacity.

"When this new manufacturing base is completed, we expect to increase our production capacity to a value of over 1 billion to 1.5 billion yuan every year. 10 thousand more six-axis-joint robots can be made," Wu Fengli, founder & CEO of Topstar Technology in Dongguan, said.

Though Chinese companies still lag behind in developing the key components of robots, Wu is confident his firm can benefit from some advantages other global robot giants may not have at their fingertips.

"Dongguan has its unique regional advantage -- the market is at the doorway of factories. All of our new products can be quickly tested in nearby factories. No groping in the darkness, no trial and error, we can customize our products based on customer demands with first-hand market information," Wu said.

Wu says his major clients are big companies -- but the future of the robotics industry will only arrive when all the small factories start using robots as their main labor force.

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