Swiss engineering group ABB plans to build robots manufacturing factory in Shanghai for an investment of $150 million as it defends its place as the largest maker of industrial robots in China, Reuters reported.
The factory, located near ABB’s China robotics campus, will be 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 center for advanced technology leadership – for ABB and the world,” ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said.
ABB is banking on Chinese robots sales defying concerns over trade tensions with the United States 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 there rise and the country seeks to compete with lower-cost countries via greater automation. In 2017, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 138,000 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. ABB’s YuMi robots — designed to work side-by-side with people — will 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 been expanding in the country, including by building a robot park in Shunde near Hong Kong.
ABB will build industrial robots at the Shanghai factory, targeting numerous industries, in addition to automobiles as well as electronic devices market.
ABB did not give a new employee count for the robot factory. ABB said it will boost robotics employment that now sits at more than 2,000 ABB workers in China.