Another robot is seen performing an orthopedic survey in a hospital in China's Hefei city. Photo: CRI
Another robot is seen performing an orthopedic survey in a hospital in China's Hefei city. Photo: CRI

Thousands of factories across China’s manufacturing belt are turning to complete automation, thanks to a government-sponsored industrial revolution that is primarily driven by robots. The world has never experienced such levels of automation.

Since 2013, the number of industrial robots bought in China exceeds those of Germany, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and other manufacturing giants. In the entire history of robots, the speed of disruption in the People’s Republic of China is, without doubt, unique.

In the last 10 years, experts have been encouraging Chinese companies to embrace automation as a way of filling the ever-widening labor gap. The central and local governments as well have been giving out generous subsidies to encourage Chinese companies not only to make use of robots but also build them. As a matter of fact, President Xi Jinping, while addressing the Chinese Academy of Sciences, called for a massive robot revolution in 2014, which would significantly change China and the entire world as well.

For many years, robots have been handling an assortment of heavy machinery and completing a variety of tasks as well. However, robots are now moving into the office space, thanks to rapid technological advancements.

Today, collaborative robots, or cobots, can handle a variety of tasks such as preparation of meals, interacting with banking customers, providing support to workers and helping retail shoppers as well. When you walk into a recruitment agency tomorrow, do not be surprised if you are served by robots.

Industries robotics have impacted

In the manufacturing industry, cobots represent a significant proportion of the entire industrial-robots and AI (artificial intelligence) market. They are commonly used to carry out a variety of tasks. These include metal fabrication; assembly, loading and dropping off of parts; packaging; inspection; and conducting tests. In the next six years, analysts project that the total sale of cobots will increase by almost 500%.

  • Business services: There has been increased use of robots in areas such as client service in banks, hotels, learning institutions, and retail stores; security in public spaces; and meal preparation in restaurants, thanks to superior navigational and interactive capacities. In Beijing, the leading recruitment agency has set out plans to make use of robots because they offer numerous benefits.
  • Health care: Robots have been playing important roles in conducting a variety of surgical procedures. Hospitals, physicians and other providers of health-care services are also making use of robots in areas such as disinfection, rehabilitation (for instance exoskeletons and prosthetics), sanitation, diagnostic systems, a variety of hospital operations and surgical assistance, among others.
  • Materials handling: An increasing number of businesses in fast-moving consumer goods, beverages, electronic commerce, and food are making use of robots to automate warehouses to carry out repetitive tasks such as packing, moving goods from one point to another, and picking, unloading and loading goods as well as handling pallets.
  • Drones: Even though drones are a category of robots (not a type of application), they have attracted millions of dollars from venture capitalists. Drones are drawing benefits from rapid advancements in data analytics and navigation. They are already experiencing adoption for a variety of applications.

Experts project that robots will be widely used in areas such as education, professional cleaning, inspection of infrastructure and farming activities as well.

Signals that the robot revolution is still ongoing

  • Service robots, as well as other next-generation robots, will rise from the current 28% to more than 65% of robot sales by 2025.
  • The European Parliament, through its members, is vouching for the creation of a common European agency for both AI and robotics, to offer technical and regulatory knowledge to public authorities.
  • Investments in the vibrant robotics industry by venture capitalists have been constantly increasing since 2013. Today, it goes beyond US$3.5 billion.
  • A global manufacturer of robots has set out plans to venture into new markets by coming up with robot assistants equipped with the ability to assist with an assortment of tasks.
  • Toyota intends to inject more than the $1 billion within the next five years to set up a new research and development department whose primary focus will be on robotics and AI.

Elliot Rhodes

Elliot Rhodes is a financial analyst and instructor, who enjoys using what he has learned from seven years of studying business and money to help others achieve financial stability. He recently co-founded 247 Call, a call-center service provider.

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