An intelligent robot on display attracts visitors at an industry expo in Beijing. (Wang Zhuangfei/China Daily)
Industry continues to be dominated by foreign manufacturers, but locals boost level to 31%
China's industrial robot manufacturers have significantly increased their local market share, as the country is keen on automating its production base, industry experts said.
Although China's robotics market is still dominated by foreign companies, domestic robot makers had expanded their market share to 31 percent in 2015, while in 2013 it was only about 25 percent, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the International Federation of Robotics.
Sales of industrial robots grew 17 percent year-on-year in 2015 in China, with 68,000 industrial robots sold, the report said.
Due to the economic slowdown and China's reforms in the manufacturing sector, the growth rate slackened last year. Robot sales in 2014 were up 56 percent on the previous year. Nonetheless, China surpassed the total market volume for Europe, whose total sales for industrial robots in 2015 was 50,000 units, the report said.
Ding Zhilei, assistant president of Ninebot Inc, a Beijing-based short-distance personal electric-vehicle and robot maker, said China's robotics industry had gained a lot from the government and the capital markets over the past few years.
"Many Chinese robot makers are investing a lot in research and development to improve the performance of their products," he said.
"We invest about 8 percent to 10 percent of our revenue in R&D, so I think the quality disparity between the products of Chinese makers and overseas companies is narrowing. In some areas, Chinese makers have the potential to lead technology innovation," he added.
Chinese producers are keen to develop their capabilities and move up the value chain through M&As. Midea Group, China's biggest maker of home appliances based in Foshan, Guangdong province, on June 16 launched an offer for all the shares above its current 13.5 percent stake in Kuka AG, a German technology leader in robotics and automation.
China is in the process of transforming from a labor-intensive manufacturing hub into a manufacturing power with high-tech and innovations, and developing the robotics sector is seen as an important part of this.
In April, a robotics industry development plan was issued by three ministries to stimulate healthy growth in the industry for the coming five years. The plan envisages that by 2020, the number of industrial robots made by Chinese companies with self-owned brands will reach 100,000 units.
The worldwide sales of industrial robots reached a record high of 248,000 units in 2015, which represented a rise of 12 percent on the previous year. The report said it expected that by 2018, some 2.3 million units would be deployed on factory floors.