Robots go it alone at factory with no assembly workers

Updated: 2015-05-05 06:54


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More than 100 industrial robots have been installed at a zero-labor factory that is being built in Dongguan, a major manufacturing base in Guangdong province.

The construction of the factory, the first of its kind in the province, marks an important step for the "robot assembly line" strategy that is being followed by the province as it tackles a severe labor shortage.

Chen Qixing, chairman of the board of Guangdong Everwin Precision Technology, said 1,000 robots will be used in the first phase of the production facility.

"The use of industrial robots will help the company to reduce the number of front-line workers by at least 90 percent," Chen said.

"When all the 1,000 industrial robots are put into operation in the coming months, we will only need to recruit fewer than 200 software technicians and management personnel."

Without the robots, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed company would have to employ more than 2,000 workers, he added.

Ren Xiangsheng, the executive deputy general manager, said the robots will help the company to maintain production stability and product quality.

Zou Yanbiao, an associate professor of robotics at South China University of Technology, said: "Using robots can help manufacturing companies to upgrade their production processes, reduce manufacturing costs and ensure the quality of their products.

"The use of industrial robots may become of greater significance in the future, as Guangdong's manufacturing industry seeks to adjust to labor shortages."

According to Guangdong's Department of Human Resources and Social Security, the province is facing a shortage of 600,000 to 800,000 workers. Dongguan alone has a labor gap of more than 100,000.

Economists have suggested that the Pearl River Delta, in particular the major cities of Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Foshan and Dongguan, should further upgrade their technology and make much greater use of intelligent robots.

The authorities in Guangdong have said they will invest 943 billion yuan ($152 billion) to replace people with robots over the next three years.

The local government will push for the use of robots by 1,950 companies across the province, and it plans to build two advanced robot production plants by the end of 2017.

More than 80 percent of manufacturing operations in Guangzhou, the province's capital, will be using industrial robots and related "intelligent" technologies by 2020, according to official projections.

Wang Zijia contributed to this story.