DJI is a Taiwanese company

Robots from China, the workers for Europe?

Development and promotion of robotics

Most modern future industries in China are mentioned in the same breath as the “Made in China 2025” (MIC 2025) industrial plan. This roadmap includes various future areas that are intensively promoted by the state. This also includes robotics, especially in connection with artificial intelligence and automation. In addition to the MIC 2025, the government launched the “Robotics Industry Development Plan” (2016–2020) in 2016. According to the plan, 100,000 industrial robots are to be manufactured annually with local technologies by 2020. To achieve this goal, robot applications for a wide range of areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, intelligent investment systems or cloud computing are being promoted and foreign investment is being attracted. In addition, provinces and cities are promoting the introduction and expansion of IT in many thousands of companies with high investment amounts. In addition to investing in its own country, the Chinese government is also planning to buy up foreign companies. That this is already in full swing was noticed in Germany primarily through the purchase of the Augsburg robot manufacturer Kuka. Around 95% of this was bought up by the Chinese Kuka major shareholder and household appliance manufacturer Midea at the beginning of 2017. This makes Midea, together with robot manufacturers such as Fanuc, ABB and Yaskawa, one of the top companies on the global robot market.

The world's largest robot market

According to the IFR, the People's Republic has been the largest robot market for years and is also growing the fastest. In addition to regional clusters, there are over 40 robotics-focused industrial parks in China that benefit from government resources and incentives to promote industry. In the past few years, more than 3,000 robotics companies have emerged, many of them on the basis of government subsidies. Therefore, a consolidation with a few remaining but dominant companies is expected again.

The most important Chinese companies in the robotics industry include Midea Siasun, Efort, GSK and DJI Innovations. And the Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn is also one of the largest robotics companies. The growth of Chinese manufacturers leads to increasing competition and thus to greater cost pressure in the long term.

Nevertheless, few industrial robots are still used in China. As an indicator of the intensity
The use of industrial robots in an industry or a country is often based on the robot density. This indicator describes the ratio of the number of robots to 10,000 employees. According to the IFR, South Korea leads with a ratio of 710 robots to 10,000 workers. It is followed by Singapore (658), Germany in third place (322), Japan (308), Sweden (240) and the USA (200). China (97) is in 21st place. Between the USA and China are other European countries as well as Canada. The Chinese value of robot density shows that progressive factories are no longer absolute exceptions, but still a
A significant proportion of Chinese production continues to be automated or digitized to a limited extent.

Trends and effects for German companies

The takeover of Kuka was definitely formative for Germany as a business location and is certainly the most prominent example of China's far-reaching ambitions in this country. Most recently, the early departure of Kuka's CEO, Till Reuter, attracted attention in December
and sparked new discussions about Chinese acquisitions in focus industries. Regardless of the progress of Till Reuter, the agreements to protect the data of business partners will continue to exist as agreed until 2023. Nevertheless, one increasingly hears voices of distrust towards the Chinese owners.

The main buyer of industrial robots in Germany is the auto industry with around 60% of all robots in vehicle construction. Many are currently using Kuka. However, robots will soon know all the steps involved in a production process and production figures, and can see which handles have changed compared to old models or which programming is used. The more networked, the higher the level
Insights of the individual robot in the context of the automated system. To pass this knowledge on to the Chinese owner, German companies shudder before that and some seem to be looking for a new partner, by 2023 at the latest.

In addition, the following trends and effects can currently be assumed:

Trend 1 - Areas of application for robotics: The developments of the “second machine age”, such as autonomous driving or “autonomous robotics” in general, will also revolutionize the use of robots in the field of service, service robotics. This applies to both the commercial
Areas such as surgical interventions, maintenance and inspection work, the management of agricultural land and much more, as well as for the private sector, such as the execution of housework. Between 2020 and 2025, service robotics should have caught up with industrial robotics in terms of global market volume. One of the main drivers for the more intensive use of robots is the extreme aging of the Chinese population and thus the use of robots in the care of the elderly and the sick. While German companies dominate industrial robotics, engagement in service robotics has to be intensified.

Trend 2 - Change in the world of production: Based on the robot density, it is also possible to infer the probability of whether SMEs are relocating their production facilities abroad. In Germany, it is assumed that industry will “migrate back” from low-wage countries, which is often referred to as the “robot revolution”. Do you know that the majority of robots will come from China in the future
that means taking the “new” workers from China to the local production site.

Trend 3 - Industry and research cooperation: The integration of German companies with the Chinese market will increasingly lead to cooperation in robotics. For example, Midea already formed two joint ventures with Yaskawa in 2015, one for the development of service robots and one for industrial robots. Another example is Siemens. The group is setting up a Robotics Center together with Tsinghua University in Beijing. Currently, however, uncertainties and mistrust about transparency in technology and know-how transfer or the protection of data overshadow the unrestricted cooperation between Chinese and German companies.

Germany is still in third place in terms of robotics density, but this applies to industrial robotics. The
The growth potential of service robotics is currently being used primarily by companies from Japan, South Korea and, increasingly, China. Given the various trends, it may prove difficult to focus on industrial robots in the long term.