It’s been just over three years since the Chinese government announced its Made in China 2025 [MiC2025] initiative to re-boot its manufacturing sector with a focus on quality over volume. With China set to become the largest user of robots in its manufacturing operations, we are, of course, paying close attention to what’s happening in the market. There’s a lot, in fact.
In the race to apply smart, collaborative robots in manufacturing, the Chinese are all in. Since announcing MiC2025, the country’s actions have clearly reflected its vision to use robots and robotics technology to achieve its objectives. The commitment is backed by government incentives and investments that accelerate its strategy.
China’s road to robot-deployment dominance is clear:
- Build them. It’s widely recognized that the Chinese market lags behind the rest of the world in the skills and knowledge needed to design, build and deliver robots. That’s going to change. According to the China Machinery Industry Foundation, the country plans to increase annual sales of domestically produced industrial robots to 100,000 by 2020. Earlier this year, there were an estimated 800 start-up robotics companies in China, launched to take advantage of government incentives.
- Buy them. In 2015, China acquired 75,000 robots, nearly twice the number from 2013 and outpacing all of the European countries combined in terms of robot acquisition. It is expected to increase investment by 20 percent each year, and reach 400,000 robots acquired by 2019.
- Put them to work. In 2016, China installed 90,000 new robots. That’s one-third of the world total and 30 percent more than the year before.
The thing is that China isn’t just showing the world’s manufacturers how to put robots to work in volume – they’re showing the world’s manufacturers how to move quickly to innovate and advance. There’s mounting evidence that, just three years in, the MiC2025 initiative to move China from the world’s leader in high-volume, low-cost goods to the leader in quality and innovation is working.
- In 2016, the Global Innovation Index recognized China for its innovation and leadership in supercomputing, gene editing, big-data analytics, and 5G mobile technology and making it the first ever middle-income economy to break into the top 25 countries.
- Productivity is on the rise, forecasted to grow 6-7% through 2025, outpacing Vietnam and India – rivals for volume production.
- Quality can be found. Manufacturers in China are eager to prove they’ve got what it takes to compete globally. …and US companies are finding they can be very useful in launching new products in highly competitive markets. Case in point: Scott Colosimo, president of Cleveland Cyclewerks found the US manufacturers simply would not take him seriously when he launched his retro motorcycle. After months of being turned down, Colosimo turned to China – where he found the only questions they asked were “how many?” and “how long?” Now 10 years later, he’s proven that you can build a company with products made in China.
Of course, 2025 is still a ways off and a lot can happen. From where we sit, China is making taking the bold steps needed to step up its game when it comes to manufacturing. We’re curious to know what you’re seeing – tweet me @jim_lawton.