ABB begins construction of new robotics factory in Shanghai
ABB has announced that it has started construction of its new robotics manufacturing and research facility in China, the world’s largest robotics market. The facility is expected to open during 2021 and represents a total investment of US$150 million.
The new 67,000 m2 factory in Kangqiao, near Shanghai, will deploy the latest manufacturing processes, including machine learning, digital and collaborative solutions. ABB claims it will be the most advanced, automated and flexible factory in the robotics industry worldwide — a centre where robots make robots. The new factory will also host an onsite research and development centre, which will help accelerate innovations in AI. The centre will serve as an open innovation hub where ABB closely collaborates with its customers to co-develop automation solutions that are tailored to their individual needs.
ABB’s robotics solutions serve a diverse customer base in Asia, supporting automotive manufacturers, particularly in e-mobility, as well as manufacturers in the electronics, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, logistics automation and general industries, among many others. ABB predicts that global robot sales will grow from $80 billion today to $130 billion in 2025. China is the world’s largest robotics market; one of three robots sold globally in 2017 went to China.
“The establishment of the new factory is another milestone in ABB’s development in China and will further strengthen our leadership in the world’s largest robotics market,” said Peter Voser, Chairman and CEO of ABB. “Since the project announcement last October, we have been provided with tremendous support from the local government. It has been listed among the Top 10 projects of the ‘Manufacturing in Shanghai’ initiative in 2019, a great honour for ABB.”
Digital factory of the future
Production in the highly automated factory will be based on cells of automation rather than on a fixed assembly line, which will allow robots to move from station to station for greater customisation and more flexibility than in traditional, linear production systems. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) will deliver parts to the production robots just in time, while the latest collaborative technologies will ensure that humans and robots can work safely side by side, bringing greater flexibility and agility to production processes and combining the advantages of robots with the unique capabilities of people.
The factory will be a complete digital manufacturing ecosystem, employing a ‘digital twin’ that will give everyone from managers and engineers to operators and maintenance teams data insights and machine learning capabilities to improve performance and maximise productivity. ABB will use a machine learning-based system to inspect robots as they are being assembled, to ensure the highest quality standards.
“As the market leader in industrial robotics in China, we are proud to support the Chinese industry in strengthening its manufacturing sector,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics and Discrete Automation business. “Despite short-term market challenges, China’s development as a global manufacturing hub, the ongoing trend towards mass customisation and a rising shortage in skilled labour will continue to create strong and lasting demand for automation solutions in the region.
“In the years ahead, we estimate the breadth and depth of our portfolio will nearly double. This means we need a factory that can produce a greater variety of robots and efficiently scale volumes to adapt to changing market conditions and technological trends.”
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