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The Swiss robots are coming to Shanghai

ABB is a Swedish-Swiss, Fortune 500 engineering company, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric grids, and a leading maker of automation equipment. If you’re not an engineer or an investor, you may never have heard of them, but keep an eye out for their distinctive, minimalist logo, and you’ll start seeing it everywhere from apartment switch boxes to billboards to nuclear power stations.

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(My first job in China was teaching English to engineers at an ABB factory on the outskirts of Beijing, which is how I first got to know the Zurich-based company. They had around 20 joint-venture factories in China in 1995.)

ABB has announced plans to build a $150 million, 75,000-square-foot robot factory in Shanghai that will open in 2020 and produce robots for China as well as for export elsewhere in Asia, according to Reuters.

  • ABB is already China’s largest industrial robot maker, and China is ABB’s second largest robot market after the U.S.
  • As China ages and labor costs rise, companies — with government encouragement — are investing in automation. “In 2017, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 138,000 units” according to ABB stats cited by Reuters.
  • “Designed to work side-by-side with people,” ABB’s line of YuMi robots “will also be deployed on many of the small parts assembly tasks” at the Shanghai robot factory.
  • Kukua, the German robotics firm acquired by China’s Midea in 2016, is also expanding in China, says Reuters, “including by building a robot park in Shunde near Hong Kong.”

This is just one of dozens of stories that we are rounding up and analyzing for today’s Access members newsletter — sign up here if you’d like the full update in your inbox!

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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