China Lags in Robot Use

China is the largest robot manufacturer in the world. The country has around 420 robot makers and 30 different robotic industrial parks. More and more robot manufacturers are popping up everyday, indicating that China will continue to be the world’s leader in robot manufacturing for quite some time. However, despite the vast number of robots the country is producing, China has an extremely small robot work force.

Earlier the International Federation of Robotics reported that China’s robot population is extremely low compared to its Asian neighbors, and low even compared to the rest of the world. For every 10,000 human workers Korea has 396 robots and Japan has 332. The global average number of robots for every 10,000 human workers is 58. China sits at 23 robots per 10,000 human workers.

China wants to encourage the use of robots in factories, and is in fact promoting a sort of buy local mentality. Almost 75% of robots sold to China last year came from overseas manufacturers. If more Chinese made robots are bought by Chinese manufacturers,  it not only increases productivity within manufacturing, but  also bolsters the country’s economy.

There is definitely incentive for China to increase robot use. Growing minimum wages have already led many Chinese manufacturers to switch to automated machinery, saving them millions of U.S. dollars in labor costs. It’s predicted that China will be buying 100,000 robots a year in 2017, which doubles the 50,000 expected to be sold by the end of this year.

While many Chinese robot makers are giving the green light for industrial automation, there are a few holdouts. Some robot manufacturers, despite working with and being in favor of automation, are a little wary of completely embracing automated workers. They say that excessive automation carries risks. There are some jobs where robot workers aren’t as good as human workers, and that’s where problems can arise.