ABB Ltd. is set to double its robot production capacity in China by increasing the number of research employees in the country, according to CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer.
The decision comes as ABB is jockeying with competing robotics companies Kuka AG and Fanuc for share in China’s $11 billion robotics industry.
“ABB is ahead of Kuka globally, we are ahead of Kuka here in the market and our ambition is to stay so,” Spiesshofer said in an interview. Currently, ABB leads Kuka and Fanuc in China, but falls behind Fanuc in global robotics sales.
To maintain its position in China, ABB plans to focus on supplying more charging facilities for electric vehicles in the country. The government is working to ban the production and sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, which could boost electric car sales. Part of the plan involves offering subsidies to cut the retail price of electric and some hybrid vehicles by up to half.
China has become a global leader in robotics and automation with 2016 annual sales of industrial robots reaching the highest level of any country at 87,000 units, according to the International Federation of Robotics. The organization predicted that industrial robotics sales would increase between 15% and 20% on average per year from 2018 to 2020.
ABB’s Spiesshofer is in the midst of completing a four-year restructuring plan that regrouped the company’s operations. He also resisted pressure from investors to break up ABB’s businesses to better realize shareholder value.