Robotics industry sees rising demand
Updated: 2015-05-14 12:25
By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)
Dennis Kambeitz (in purple shirt) of Canada-based EZ Robot speaks with guests during RoboUniverse NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Wednesday in New York. [Jack Freifelder / China Daily]
As robots are used for a growing number of business and everyday applications, experts say there is a need for more education and a better understanding of the industry.
"We have to prepare our workforce, and we have to prepare our students," said Dennis Kambeitz, education and business development leader for Canada-based EZ Robot. "They don't understand the scope of what's coming and what they need to do to prepare in what little time they have to do it.
Kambeitz spoke during RoboUniverse NYC on Wednesday. The May 11-13 event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan was the first robotics trade show dedicated to end users of service and collaborative robots.
"There's no need to hide from the fact that robots will take away jobs," he said during a presentation titled Preparing Our Workforce for a Robotic World. "But we have to change the way we educate people."
EZ Robot, which was founded in 2011, is located in Calgary, Alberta. The company makes a robot software platform that can be customized for home, classroom or light industrial use.
EZ Robot's manufacturing is based in China, said Kambeitz, and the company ships robots to a number of global locations, including to resellers in the US, Denmark, Spain, South Africa and Singapore.
Kambeitz said the company is also looking for partners for resale points in China and India.
"The biggest challenge is people don't understand the breadth of what robotics is going to do," Kambeitz told China Daily. "My expectation would be that China is going to probably face that, too. But China is investing in robotics, and it's clearly important."
"Robotics is really new, and it's still a relatively young industry," said Barry Braunstein, a vice-president with Acorn Product Development in California. "People are still trying to both understand what is good for a robot and what are good applications for a robot.
"But costs are continuing to come down, and the amount of computing power you can put in per dollar is phenomenal," he said. "So now you can do a lot more things with robotics."
Acorn, which was founded in 1993, is a product development firm that has four design centers across the globe, with one in China. The China office has been open for about 10 years.
Changing demographics in China, including a shrinking working-age population and an aging society, are two situations that have raised demand for robots, said Liu Junchang, a researcher at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Beijing, in a recent interview with Hebei Daily.
By 2050, the Chinese population over age 60 will reach roughly 500 million from nearly 200 million at present, according to Xinhuanet.com.
Although China's robotics market still lags that of other major economies, the market is growing rapidly, according to data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
In 2013, China became the world's largest robot market with 36,560 industrial robots sold, IFR data showed.
Global industrial robot sales reached 225,000 in 2014, up 27 percent from 2013, according to Qu Daokui, president of the Shenyang-based Siasun Robot & Automation Co Ltd, one of China's largest robotics companies.
About 56,000 were sold in China, an increase of more than 50 percent year over year, Qu said during a speech at the 2015 China National Robotics Development Forum in Beijing.
The IFR forecasts that China will have more robots operating at its production plants by 2017 than any other country, due to growing automation in the auto and electronics industries, as well as a hedge against rising wages.
David Askey, co-founder of EnergID Technologies, a robotics engineering firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: "With the labor shortage in China, there's certainly a demand for automation, and there's a number of incentives in place. Right now, we see a lot of energy and forward focus on automation. Provincial governments are getting involved now because they see the long-term benefit, and local manufacturers seem to be involved too."
Wang Ying in Shanghai and Chen Yingqun in Beijing contributed to this story.