Chinese consumer manufacturer Midea, after having spent over $4 billion to acquire 94% of German robot maker Kuka, is planning to spend an additional $1.5 billion to turn itself into China's preeminent robot powerhouse.
It plans to build a factory located in Foshan City to expand its capacity to manufacture and assemble robots and robot components. Much of the production will be to produce automatons for homes and individuals – robots similar to SoftBank's Pepper – which consumers appear to be enamored of. Midea expects to ramp up production at the new facility from an initial 7,000 robots annually to 17,000 or more within 10 years.
Midea is China’s biggest manufacturer of air conditioners, refrigerators and home appliances, employing around 135,000 people. Their investments in robotics as a user and also by buying Kuka, establishing a robot factory, and creating an automaton for home use – underscores their ambition to lead China in automation and robotics.
Midea’s recent investments follow a series of government-led initiatives labeled China Manufacturing 2025, which is aimed at transforming China’s manufacturing industry from low-end mass production into a more profitable model harnessing new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
“Midea’s strategy is to be the Chinese leader in robotics and automation,” said Wang Cairong, secretary general of the China Artificial Intelligence Robot Industry Alliance, an industry association. “It may even be a global giant in this field. Chinese government needs and encourages new “heavyweight” companies in this sector.”