BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhuanet) -- If you still think having robots doing manual labor is a dream, you are out of date. In fact, robots are playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturing sector, especially after the severe labor shortage in eastern China. As the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, China is set to become the world’s largest robot market in 2014.
During the May Day holiday, the largest air conditioner manufacturing company in Zhejiang province is working overtime. But there isn’t a single factory worker in sight.
"With an annual production of 5 million compressors, our company would have needed 1,000 workers. But now, we only need 580 workers," said Zhou Jiansheng at Jiaxipera.
Industrial robots make up for the rest. This particular assembly line would require 6 to 7 people, but with robots, only one or two are sufficient. Since the beginning of this year, with the worsening labor shortage in east China, an increasing number of manufacturing businesses are adopting industrial robots. Foxcom, in particular, has announced plans to use one million robots. Some small companies as well are also looking at using them.
Qian Yongdi is the president of a sanitary appliance company in Zhejiang province. He says, even with a monthly salary of 8,000 yuan, he found it hard to retain a skilled worker on the job. But with industrial robots, he is no longer worried.
"The robots work non-stop around the clock. Workers get tired after eight hours of work," he said.
Qian tells us that with a price tag of 500,000 yuan, one robot can replace three workers. It would only take 18 months to recover the cost. Experts say using robots represents the future of China’s industrial upgrading.
"The government needs to provide favorable conditions to promote the use of robots, so we can seize the golden opportunity for industrial upgrading and lay a solid foundation for smart families and smart cities," said Qu Daokui, president of China Robot Industrial Alliance.
According to the International Robot Association, by the end of 2012, China had overtaken South Korea to become the second largest robot market, after Japan. It’s estimated that by 2014, the demand for robots in China will reach 32,000 units - the largest in the world.