Robotics firm KUKA doubling capacity in China

The company is shifting its focus to China, where demand is surging

German industrial robot maker KUKA will double the capacity of its operations in Shanghai’s Songjiang district next year to meet surging demand in China, the company said on Thursday.

Its Songjiang plants will produce 20,000 robots a year by 2018, up from 10,000, said Andy Wen, chief executive officer of KUKA Robotics China.

China accounted for 35-38 percent of KUKA’s global robot sales last year, “which is already a big figure,” Wen said.

“But by 2020, we expect that China will take up over 50 percent of our robot sales as we shift more focus to this region, seeing larger potential and more robust growth compared with more mature markets such as Europe.”

Output in China, the world’s largest industrial robot market, jumped 63 percent in the first eight months from a year earlier on the back of industrial profit growth and policies to spur the development of smart manufacturing, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

More domestic robot producers and buyers are emerging, “urging us to cut lead time to compete for a larger market share while we also need to enhance research for higher added value,” Wen said.

Alongside its production expansion, KUKA will also add research centers in Songjiang next year to enhance local innovation and applications, he added.

More of China’s industries are upgrading with automation, especially in sectors such as healthcare and digital devices.

While in the past automobiles took up the largest part of KUKA’s robot business in China, this year that has been squeezed into half by other industries, Wen said.

“That means we need to develop more diversified products for China,” he said.

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