Robots ‘invade’ Chinese factories, the future of manufacturing industry in Vietnam

Factories in China are increasingly turning to full automation by robots in the context that the country is gradually reducing the number of workers.

At a Midea microwave factory in the southern Chinese of Phat Son city, orange robotic arms are in motion, assembling components with extreme precision. There was hardly a single person around.

Các nhà máy Trung Quốc đang tăng tốc tự động hóa bằng robot. Ảnh: SCMP.
 Chinese factories are accelerating automation with robots. Photo: SCMP.

In China, this sight is increasingly common at factories. Robotic arms and surveillance cameras with the latest version of computer vision technology, transport robots… create a closed production process. Humans are almost eliminated from these lines, except for 1-2 engineers controlling the system. Even the line does not need someone on duty there, because everything can be operated via the smartphone app remotely and proactively.

“If this line used to require 16 people to operate, now there are only four,” Xu Nian’en said, manager of Midea’s factory in Phat Son city. He also revealed that Midea has invested 4 billion yuan ($622 million) to upgrade the robot over five years. As a result, the factory’s efficiency level increased by 62%, but also caused 50,000 workers to be transferred or lost their jobs.

In the context of China’s rapidly digitizing economy, Midea’s factories represent an overall picture of the future of manufacturing in China – a country known as the “factory of the world”. In fact, thousands of factories across China are poised for a workforce-less future by investing in automation, robotics and digitalisation. Midea, for example, plans to replace 30% of its frontline employees in the next three years with automated machines.

Cánh tay robot lắp ráp lò vi sóng của Midea. Ảnh: Handout.
Midea’s microwave-assembled robotic arm. Photo: Handout

China has been the world’s largest industrial robot market since 2013. With the impetus of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automation is increasingly being promoted. “Digitalization means changing a country’s core competitiveness at a fundamental level,”  former International Monetary Fund executive vice president and head of the Institute of International Finance from Tsinghua University, Zhu Min said.

According to Mr. Min, the application of robots makes a big change. “Now, the labor cost to assemble an air conditioner like Midea’s is only about 10 yuan ($1.6), a level unimaginable in the past,” Min said.

The adoption of robots by factories also comes from the context of high labor costs in China. According to NBS, the average annual salary of workers in urban private companies in China has nearly tripled, from 20,759 yuan in 2010 to 57,727 yuan ($9,000) in 2020. For the manufacturing sector, the average annual salary of workers is 74,641 yuan ($11,713) in 2020, while in 2017 it was 58,049 yuan ($9,100).

However, when calculating the density of robots compared to the workforce, China is still lower than other countries. According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, China currently has a ratio of 187 robots per 10,000 workers, while Singapore has the highest with 918 robots per 10,000 workers, followed by South Korea with 868 robots per 10,000 workers.

In the Vietnamese market, manufacturing enterprises and factories are gradually applying robotic technology to actual production, but over 97% of Vietnamese enterprises are now small and medium enterprises, so they should meet many difficulties and challenges in terms of capital, science and technology, human resources and innovation capacity are still very low. The link between enterprises and science and technology organizations is still limited and ineffective.

nguyên Bí thư Thành ủy Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
Former Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee: Mr. Nguyen Thien Nhan visited IDEA to research about IDEA’s robot products

With the above situation, Vietnam is facing huge challenges between the demand and the ability to apply Robotic & Mechatronic Technology in the production process. To solve these challenges, manufacturing enterprises are in need of businesses with expertise in robot technology, scientists and technology experts to work together to answer the question “Who?” and “How?”

If you are still wondering about the robotics industry, contact to IDEA, IDEA Company is a science and technology enterprise, strength in robotics and automation, 4.0 leading the country. Contact us now for a free consultation and introduction to IDEA’s robot products.

IDEA products are committed to Japanese quality.


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