China begins construction of all-robot factory

China has broken ground on the country’s proposed first ever all-robot manufacturing plant.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the new plant will be built in the city of Dongguan in south-eastern China’s Guangdong Province.

The new robotic factory will be run by Shenzhen Everwin Precision Technology and produce a range of electronic and technology goods.

Once it is fully operational, a total of 1,000 individual robots will be installed on the premises, enabling the company to reduce its overall labour requirements for the factory by 90%. In effect, the workforce will be reduced from 1,800 people to around 200.

While the company has remained tight-lipped about the cost of the robotic production line, they have stated they believe the new factory will have a yearly output of 2bn Yuan ($322m) worth of goods.

This revolutionary approach to manufacturing in China is being encouraged by both its central government, and the Guangdong provincial government.

Earlier this year, authorities announced they would spend a massive 943bn Yuan to ($152bn) on subsidies and direct investment aimed at fostering the growth of robotic manufacturing and a robotics industry.

Often viewed as the ‘factory of the world’, this region is home to one of the greatest concentrations of manufacturing of anywhere on the plant. As such, it has a high demand for relatively unskilled and cheap labour.

For a number of reasons, this labour pool has reduced in size in the last decade, and factories have suffered worker shortfalls which count into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

Employment concerns

The government hopes that by encouraging the growth of robotics technology, it can eventually alleviate these shortfalls and increase production output.

However, the Chinese government is playing a dangerous game when it comes to employment. Labour shortages are already falling due to what China calls ‘The New Normal’ – a reduction of its overall growth rate.

Should robotic factories take off throughout China, they could potentially put millions out of work, and cause yet greater problems for the ruling party.