From Bloomberg (Nov. 29):
Market MontageStep into the factory of Chinese SUV and truck maker Great Wall Motors, and it’s easy to forget you’re in the world’s most populous country. Swiss-made robots pivot and plunge, stamping metal door frames and soldering them to the skeletal vehicle bodies of a mini-SUV called the Haval M4. The blue-smocked workers in yellow hard hats are few and far between here in Great Wall’s largest factory complex, located in Baoding, some 90 miles southwest of Beijing.“With automation, we can reduce our head count and save money,” says Hao Jianjun, Great Wall’s general manager, who has invested $161 million into mechanizing four plants with 1,200 robots. The average price of a factory-floor robot is around $50,000 before installation. “Within three years, this cost will be completely paid for in savings from reduced worker wages,” says Hao. After the robots were added, the number of welders at Great Wall dropped from 1,300 to around 400.
Last year sales of industrial robots in China reached 22,577 units, up 51 percent over 2011. That puts China just behind Japan and South Korea, but ahead of Germany and the U.S., in the purchase of new robots. With robot sales quadrupling from 2006 to 2011, China is on track to become the world’s largest industrial cyborg market by 2014, predicts the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics....MORE