Technology gap gives foreign firms the edge in China robot wars
by UNTV News | Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015
A Baxter robot of Rethink Robotics picks up a business card as it performs during a display at the World Economic Forum (WEF), in China’s port city Dalian, Liaoning province, China, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/JASON LEE
In a cavernous showroom on the outskirts of this port city in northeastern China, softly whirring lathes and svelte robot arms represent Dalian Machine Tools Group’s (DMTG) vision of an automated future for Chinese manufacturing.
On closer inspection, however, most of the machines’ control panels bear the logos of Japan’s FANUC Corp or the German conglomerate Siemens.
The imported control systems in DMTG’s products – used in the assembly of everything from smartphones to cement trucks – are symbolic of the technology gap between Chinese and foreign industrial automation firms, just one of several challenges facing China’s ambition to nurture a national robotics industry.
Chinese robotics firms are also grappling with a weakening economy and slumping automotive sector, and industry insiders already predict a market bubble just three years after the central government issued policies to spur robotics development.
“Last year everybody thought they could produce a robot,” said Alan Lee, director of Asia sales and business development at Boston-based Rethink Robotics. “When you have market saturation you’ll have filtering and M&A. These guys will be the first layer to suffer.”
It is a storyline familiar from other new industries such as solar panels: Beijing’s policies and subsides trigger a wave of low-margin, low-cost contenders to rush into the market, where, with no meaningful technology of their own, they struggle to compete on price alone.
A year after analysts predicted the unstoppable advance of Chinese robot makers, executives at foreign companies now say they are well-positioned to weather any temporary blip in demand as manufacturers tighten capital investment while waiting to see how China’s economy fares.
To be sure, foreign or domestic executives alike say they believe in China’s commitment to upgrade its manufacturing sector and the potential of the domestic robot industry to grow into a leading force in the long run.
With wages rising as much as 10 percent a year, Chinese policymakers have said they fear labor shortages of as high as 30 percent in some areas and are keen to help automation along.
Chinese-made robots deployed have surged from an estimated 3,000 in 2012, when the central government began introducing automated manufacturing proposals, to 15,000 last year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
The growth rate for foreign-made robots has been slower, but they still dominate Chinese factory floors, with numbers increasing from 22,000 to 41,000, during the same period.
Subsidies have sparked an explosion in the number of Chinese robotics firms from 200 to around 815 in two years, according to OFWeek, a Chinese robot industry news site and research center.
But at most 30 of those firms have done any meaningful research and development, said Wang Baomin, senior analyst at Shenzhen-based consulting firm MIR Industry.
“Companies that get subsidies through connections are cruising without feeling any competition or fully grasping the technology,” said Wang.
“I’m afraid robots will walk down the path of China’s solar industry, with its market development distorted.”
Xu Wenjiu, an executive at Shenzhen-based robot maker LEN, expects a third of domestic robot firms to collapse within three years because many do not have the ability to offer after-market maintenance for products that break down.
Foreign robot makers are sanguine about the profusion of Chinese rivals – at least for now.
Gu Chunyuan, the China head of Zurich-based ABB Robotics, a leading robotics firm along with the likes of Germany’s Kuka and Japan’s Yaskawa, downplayed the threat of Chinese competition, saying his firm held a significant technological advantage.
The company also ships many “naked” robots to Chinese firms who resell a customized final product to factories.
In Dalian, DTMG’s president, Ma Junqing, acknowledged there was an “obvious gap” between Chinese firms and foreign competitors in robot and automation technology.
But he said his firm, which specializes in automated machine tools, had been making advanced robot arms for only three years and hoped to catch up with Japanese rivals in three years and German competitors within five.
“The complete product chain takes a long time, as does researching technology and developing the market,” said Ma, whose firm has longstanding government links and receives subsidies and loans.
Still, domestic firms like Shanghai Siasun Robot & Automation are seen as making advances in robot technology, while companies like DMTG and rival Shenyang Machine Tool Co are investing to expand beyond traditional machine tools into more sophisticated products.
Rethink Robotics’ founder Rodney Brooks, who has consulted for local Chinese governments, predicted that the champion of Chinese robotics may emerge from an unexpected quarter, given the level of investment and technology required.
He named e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which has invested in robotics with hardware manufacturer Foxconn and Softbank, as a contender, much like how Amazon Inc has become a major robotics player in the United States.
“It may not be the traditional players but the transformation is still going to happen in China,” Brooks said.
(Reporting by Gerry Shih and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will share the USD 22-million worth of firearms and ammunition donated by the Chinese government.
This is China’s second donation of military equipment to the AFP.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said, 90 sets of sniper scope will go the soldiers battling terrorists in Marawi City while the guns and ammunition will go to the police for their special forces.
“For now, the PNP needs additional firearms, so we have to help the PNP so that they can do their job. They lack long firearms,” said Año.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese donation is part of the friendship and cooperation between Beijing and Malacañang in terms of fighting terrorism.
“I want to thank China for its technical assistance in our anti-terrorism operations in Marawi City, this has been vital in winning the battle against extremist,” said Lorenzana.
Thirty-five sets of engineering equipment are also set to arrive before the end of the year. These sets of equipment, the Philippine authorities said, is for the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said China is in full support of the Philippines’ fight against the ISIS-inspired group Maute and illegal drugs.
The Chinese ambassador noted that Beijing has already donated an estimated of 5.5 billion pesos worth of humanitarian assistance and disaster reduction and military equipment to the Philippines.
“Let me assure you that China will provide additional grants and assistance to the Philippines. We would like to be your partner in a rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city of Marawi,” said the Chinese ambassador.
Jianhua explained that the donations will not push through if not for the efforts of President Rodrigo Duterte to repair the relationship of Manila with Beijing. It can be noted the two countries were at odds over the South China Sea during the term of Mr. Duterte’s predecessor.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed, China would like to be a friend in need so we cherish the friendship that rekindled by President Duterte,” said Jianhua. — Lea Ylagan | UNTV News & Rescue
by UNTV News | Posted on Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
MANILA, Philippines — China is set to donate on Thursday firearms and ammunition to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
AFP PAO Chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said the said donations include 3,000 units of M-14 rifles; three million rounds of various types of ammunition and 30 sniper scopes worth USD22-million.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief-of-Staff Eduardo Año will receive the donations which will be turned over by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhao.
“Definitely this will greatly help in the operations that we conduct because this can help in our fire power not just, of course, in Marawi, but in other areas of the country where our combat operations are ongoing,” AFP-PAO Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said. – UNTV NEWS & Rescue
by UNTV News | Posted on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
Sen. Antonio Trillanes in Singapore
Senator Antonio Trillanes personally went to Singapore to belie the allegations of President Rodrigo Duterte that he has an offshore account in the said country.
Trillanes went to DBS Bank and then to HSBC here in Singapore this morning, but found no account under his name.
The managers of the banks could not release certification as he is not their client.
Following his visit to Singapore, Trillanes has once again challenged the President to sign a waiver to allow authorities to scrutinize his bank accounts.
“So from this, everyone can see that all the allegations of the President against me are all made-up to divert the public’s attention away from the primary issue which is the President’s involvement in illegal drugs, and his hidden wealth,” Trillanes said. “They do this at the same to divert my attention and to harass me and damage my name.”
President Duterte initially disclosed that the lawmaker has currency accounts in Shanghai, China, Zurich and Geneva in Switzerland, Singapore, and in Cayman Islands.
Mr. Duterte, however, noted that the senator’s accounts in Zurich and here in Singapore are already closed.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said authorities have to validate Trillanes’ claims that he has a non-existent bank account in Singapore.
“Those things have to be verified, apparently like we said, the President already checked into the background of that particular account ,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said. – Mary Jo Maleriado | UNTV News & Rescue
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