Right now, robotics companies are setting their sights on China as its robotics industry and the number of robots installed in the country continue to grow.
Through official initiatives, such as the “Made in China 2025 program,” the Chinese government is helping drive this industry growth. The program’s five-year plan aims to automate sectors like car manufacturing, electronics, home appliances, logistics and food production — installing between 600,000 and 650,000 industrial robots — as well as increase the share of in-country produced robots by more than 50% by 2020.
And so far, efforts are driving up the number of robotics companies in the country. In June, The Robot Report reported it had 500 Chinese companies in its suppliers database, but that number has grown now to 608.
The appeal of China for robotics companies lies in three main factors: scale, growth momentum and money. Startups can achieve scale quickly because of a large domestic market, and the demand for industrial robots continues to grow as companies race to automate operations.
As a result, international companies are also working to maintain and grow their share in the Chinese robotics market, which is growing at a compound annual growth rate of more than 15%.
For example, ABB Ltd. announced this week it is planning to double its robot production capacity in China to compete with competitors Kuka AG and Fanuc in the region.
Similarly, German company Siemens AG plans to open a new research center in Beijing to study and develop mechatronics systems, human-robot interactions and collaboration and the use of artificial intelligence in robotic controllers.
Working with Tsinghua University and Chinese cities, the new R&D center will help find “digital city” solutions for urban challenges like traffic congestion, energy usage, public convenience and pollution or environmental degradation.
“China’s digital transformation is already having a profound impact on its economy. With Made in China 2025 and The Belt & Road initiatives, China intends to upgrade its national industry and boost its global competence through digitalization-focused innovations,” Siemens chief technology officer and managing board member Dr. Roland Busch said in a press release. “Siemens is investing heavily in the future of China and partnering with the country and many customers on its way to digitalization.”
In addition to working in China, other companies are focusing on increasing their sales in the Chinese market. Japanese company Kawaski Heavy Industries is expanding its Chinese industrial robot sales by 70% with a target of 8,000 units this fiscal year. To reach this goal, Kawaski’s China division plans to install three new assembly lines to create four types of small robots.
Likewise, Boston company Rethink Robotics began shipping its robotic arm to China. “Electronic manufacturing is not going to move away from China,” Rethink Robotics CEO Rod Brooks said. “We moved to where the market is now.”