Robots to make robots at ABB’s new $150-million factory in China

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Zurich | Published: October 28, 2018 8:16:07 AM

Robots will make robots at a new ABB factory in China, which the Swiss engineering group plans to build for $150 million in Shanghai.

robots, chinaHumanoid robot YuMi conducts the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at the Verdi Theatre in Pisa, Italy. (Reuters)

Robots will make robots at a new ABB factory in China, which the Swiss engineering group plans to build for $150 million in Shanghai.

The move is ABB’s latest attempt to defend its place as the country’s largest maker of industrial robots.

The factory, located near ABB’s China robotics campus, is slated to begin operating by the end of 2020 and will produce robots for China as well as for export elsewhere in Asia. China is ABB’s No. 2 market after the United States.

“Shanghai has become a vital centre for advanced technology leadership—for ABB and the world,” ABB chief executive officer Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement announcing the project.

With the expansion, ABB is banking on Chinese robots’ sales defying concerns over trade tensions with the US that some fear could dent demand for electronics, auto parts and other items that require automated manufacturing and robots.

China is expanding its robot workforce, as wages for human workers rise. The country seeks to compete with lower-cost countries via greater automation. In 2017, one in every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 1.38 lakh units, ABB said.

ABB’s new 75,000-square-foot factory will use software meant to allow people and robots to work safely in close proximity, the company said, adding its YuMi robots—designed to work side-by-side with people—will also be deployed on many of the small parts assembly tasks needed to manufacture an ABB robot.

Rival Kuka, taken over in 2016 by China’s Midea two years ago, has also been expanding in the country, including by building a robot park in Shunde near Hong Kong.

ABB, whose industrial robots are used, among other things, to build automobiles as well as to assemble electronic devices, will build robots for numerous industries at the Shanghai factory, a spokesman said.

It did not give a new employee count for the factory, but said that it will boost robotics employment that now sits at more than 2,000 ABB workers in China.

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