Technology gap gives foreign firms the edge in China robot wars

admin   •   September 21, 2015   •   98519

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

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.

ROBOTICS EXPLOSION

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.

TECHNOLOGY GAP

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)

DFA finalizes repatriation for 11 stranded Filipino seafarers onboard Ocean Star 86

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 25, 2020

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is finalizing the repatriation of the remaining 11 Filipino seafarers stranded in Chinese waters onboard Ocean Star 86 since March 24.

The DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are already coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in China. OWWA said the seafarers will be able to return home by next week.

“Mayroon na po napipintong repatriation either this coming week or first week of October ng ating mga mahal na stranded seafarers sa China (Our stranded seafarers in China will be repatriated either this coming week or first week of October). We are now providing assistance to the seafarers,” according to OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.

Based on the information received by OWWA, the Ocean Star 86 is docked in the mainland and the Philippine Embassy in China has been providing assistance to the seafarers. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

TAGS   ,

Fresh PHL protest vs China won’t affect diplomatic ties – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The fresh diplomatic protest filed by the Philippines against China over its coast guard’s “illegal confiscation” of fish aggregating devices installed by Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc will not affect the friendship between the two countries, Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said lodging of protests over acts deemed violative of the country’s sovereign rights is part of the job of Philippine diplomats.

“‘Yang mga protests naman ginagawa talaga yan ng ating mga diplomats kung meron sa tingin natin na lalalabag sa ating soberenya o doon sa ating tinatawag natin sovereign rights,” he said.

“Pero hindi naman po makakaapekto doon sa kabuuan ng ating matalik na pagsasamahan sa panig ng bansa natin at ng bansang Tsina,” he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said it has lodged a diplomatic protest against China over the incident that took place in May.

Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal is a vital spawning ground for fish that lies over 100 nautical miles from the coast of Masinloc, Zambales.

It is among the areas in the South China Sea being claimed by China, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Malaysia, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hage rules that under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, the Bajo de Masinloc is a common fishing ground and that China’s claims over the strategic body of water is not valid. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Philippines files diplomatic protest against China over confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s gears

Marje Pelayo   •   August 21, 2020

FILE PHOTO: A Philippine fisherman watches a China Coast Guard vessel patrolling the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017. Picture taken April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged on Thursday (August 20) a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of fish aggregating devices (payaos) of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.

The DFA added that “the Philippines also resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”

In July 2016, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in the Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines to invalidate China’s historical claims on the self-proclaimed ‘nine-dash line’ in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.

The Philippines maintains that Bajo de Masinloc is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the arbitral ruling declares it as a common fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese or even Chinese fishermen.

TAGS   , ,

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.