Makers see long-term benefits in mechanizing tedious production processes.
Cost and efficiency benefits are prompting more China suppliers to switch to automated equipment in carrying out complex production processes.
Automation is helping to reduce reliance on manual work. This is critical amid the ongoing labor-related issues such as rising costs, high turnover and shortage in several manufacturing hubs in China. For one, the worker deficit is expected to persist in the next five years.
Shenzhen City Xin Lei Brush Produce Co. Ltd has raised efficiency by 15 percent through this strategy. Its full set of automated equipment, including a filling system and trimming machines, enables a single worker to complete 80 percent of a job done formerly by an entire team.
Using computerized painting equipment, Kaifeng Group Co. Ltd finishes 150 doors daily, up 50 percent from its preautomation output of 100. The supplier’s automated paint color mixing tool, meanwhile, results in greater color accuracy and surface consistency.
Meanwhile, automation efforts for Foxconn and other top-tier enterprises revolve around updating existing equipment or investing in intelligent but costly robots to replace workers.
Complete modernization and cost savings, however, will take at least five years, according to Liu Kai Ming, director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation. These endeavors are still in their infancy, even in developed locations such as North America and the EU.
As for SMEs, manipulators will figure prominently in automation efforts in coming years. Growing use is already evident in labor- and skill-intensive industries, including garments, and food processing, medical and electronics. Among manufacturing hubs, adoption is becoming common in the coastal provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, and in Shanghai and Beijing.
SMEs stand to benefit the most from manipulators, which are about $5,000 to $20,000 per unit, recouping investment through enhanced efficiency and labor cost savings.
To illustrate, manipulators used in plastic injection, including $6,300 versions from one vendor, can replace workers required to fulfill two 12-hour shifts, the norm in the industry.
Dongguan Xin Yu Plastic Mould Co. Ltd has procured more than 25 manipulators in the past two years. This has enabled the supplier to cut its manpower pool by 30 percent as tasks performed previously by three staff members can now be done by just one.
Sensor manufacturer Zhengzhou Winsen Technology Corp. Ltd adopts manipulators in making 1x1mm ceramic components. These parts need four soldering lines with precise points, which can be difficult to achieve manually.
Manipulators are likewise used to assemble and glue up to 100 ceramic components on a small board.
According to Siasun Robot & Automation Co. Ltd, manipulators are suitable for processes that require minimal adjustments. Assembly and conveyor work and sample production are examples.
Frequent design changes, which are common among large operations with diverse selections, can impact the speed and efficiency of manipulators.