Robots have bright future in workplace
China is expected to overtake Japan as the world’s largest user of robots next year as they become more affordable for manufacturers in the face of the country’s increasing labor costs, a senior official from the robot industry alliance said on Thursday.
Qu Daokui, chairman of the China Robot Industry Alliance, said the price of industrial robots has dropped 50 percent over the past five years and will keep going down 4 percent a year, while workers’ salaries in China keep rising, tempting many companies to replace human labor with robots.
China’s will have a demand for 35,000 robots in 2015, accounting for about 17 percent of the world’s sales, Qu said, quoting the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics.
The market price for an industrial robot ranges from about 200,000 ($32,000) to 30,000 yuan, he said.
“Although big State-owned enterprises are still our major clients, orders from small and medium-sized enterprises are increasing rapidly as robots are becoming affordable for them,” said Qu, who is also president of Siasun Robot and Automation.
Qu made the comments at a forum on new industrial revolution and intelligent manufacturing held in Beijing on Thursday by four organizations including the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society.
The forum was a part of the Sino-American Technology and Engineering Conference held every two years involving engineers and experts from the United States and China who try to solve pressing issues in technology and engineering via field study and discussion.
Industrial robots have been adopted in various sectors including automobile and home appliance manufacturing and energy.
The Yingli Green Energy Holding Co, headquartered in Baoding, Hebei province, has been using machines and robotic hands to replace workers since 2006 to improve accuracy and efficiency, said Yan Wei, director of the company’s energy equipment bureau.
So far, the solar panel manufacturer has introduced more than 100 such machines.
“We recouped the cost of the investment for robots after three years, and using robots has also helped us to reduce our workforce by around 500,” he said.
Zhao Jie, executive vice-director of the State Key Lab of Robotics and System at Harbin Institute of Technology, said return on investment is the priority for most companies that consider introducing robots to their production lines.
“It now takes about two to five years for a company to realize an investment return by using robots. In 10 years, the period could be reduced to one quarter, which will lead to explosive growth of industrial robots,” he said. Zheng Jinran contributed to the story.