Japan companies tap demand to automate factories in China
Mitsubishi Electric, Kawasaki Heavy see opportunity as labor costs rise
TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Electric and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are among Japanese machinery manufacturers moving to produce more robots and factory automation products in China amid a push there to improve factory efficiency.
Mitsubishi Electric plans to invest an estimated 2 billion yen ($17.6 million) to boost the output capacity of motors and numerical control devices for machine tools at a plant in Jiangsu Province. It intends to construct a new building about the same size as the existing one, aiming to bring the new facility onstream this year.
The Japanese company offers e-F@ctory, an "internet of things" service that connects equipment inside a factory and allows the user to monitor their status. This fiscal year, it hopes to increase from 60 to 100 the number of local partners that handle compatible software, devices and other products.
Mitsubishi Electric will also have Chinese engineers visit factories and other facilities of potential clients to pitch products and services. By proposing factory automation solutions and providing high-quality maintenance, the company aims to increase sales of factory automation equipment in China by 50% within five years.
Kawasaki Heavy has begun manufacturing in Jiangsu Province small and midsize robots that it used to export from Japan. These robots handle such tasks as assembling electronic devices and grinding machine parts. New production equipment that can churn out 2,000 to 3,000 robots a year has lifted the facility's output capacity by 20% to 30%.
Through local production, Kawasaki Heavy aims to reduce foreign exchange risks while tapping growing demand in China. It has also relocated and expanded its sales and service facility in Tianjin.
Yaskawa Electric will double its Chinese production capacity for articulated robots to around 1,000 units a month. Its medium-term business plan through fiscal 2018 calls for expanding its plant in Jiangsu. It has already secured some 50,000 sq. meters of land next to the plant, which builds large robots for welding and transport.
Rising wages in China have prompted a growing number of corporations to shift production to other parts of Asia. The Chinese government is trying to improve the productivity of the companies by urging them to introduce internet of things services and factory automation, aiming to move away from an industrial structure that relies on low costs.