China Commits to Expanding Smart Manufacturing and Robotics Innovation in 2022

January 25, 2022 by Shawn Dietrich

China launched a five-year plan to increase robotic process automation (RPA) and smart manufacturing, starting with new partnerships and reports.

An aging, retiring population—and younger generations that do not want to work in hazardous environments—will not provide the same level of manufactured goods currently offered in China.


Cobots have been increasing and helping the skills gap. Image used courtesy of ABB


A group of sixteen state-funded industry committees has formed what they are calling the “14th Five-Year Plan.” This plan is China’s goal to rapidly push the manufacturing industry into the future. China is generally unknown for its advanced manufacturing facilities, nor have they been a large user of industrial robotics.

China has never really needed industrial robots due to cheap labor and generally lower safety requirements than North America or Europe. The “Plan” is endorsed by Xi Jinping, the current political leader in China.


The Fourteenth Five-year Plan

To implement this five-year plan, China has decided to focus on five main tasks:

  • Improving industrial innovation capabilities
  • Consolidating the foundation of industrial development 
  • Increasing the supply of high-end products 
  • Expanding the depth of applications 
  • Optimizing industrial organizations

Let’s break down how China plans to accomplish each of these goals.

Improve industrial innovation: China plans to strengthen robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud data technology research capabilities. By focusing on these areas of industry, China hopes to develop technologies that can provide a brighter manufacturing future.

Consolidate the foundation for industrial development: This focuses on developing standardized robotic solutions and developing a robot certification system. China wants to provide the manufacturing industry with a quality robotic solution for all factories.

Increase the supply of high-end products: Adding robots to any manufacturing process is costly, especially when inexpensive labor is more abundant. China hopes to attract high-end manufacturers to supply high-end products by adding industrial robotics.

Expand the depth of applications: This task will ultimately pressure the automation companies and robot integrators to utilize advanced technologies and programming theories to provide their customers with advanced robotic automation solutions. China also hopes that these suppliers will reach out into other industrial sectors, such as medical care, electric power, and mining.

Optimize the industrial-organizational structure: The fifth task is to promote existing companies to grow into industry-leading companies. This task also encourages companies to specialize in specific technologies and become small leaders within those industries.


ABB and HASCO leaders meet to create a joint venture. Image used courtesy of ABB


This “Plan” isn’t the only thing leading China toward smart manufacturing and robotics.


ABB Joint Venture With HASCO

ABB, well-known worldwide for its line of industrial robots, has joined forces with HASCO, China’s leading supplier of automotive parts.

The joint venture will add to both companies' expertise and manufacturing experience and provide China’s auto parts industry with advanced robotic technology for smart manufacturing. ABB and HASCO plan to use smart technologies and AI to advance the automotive parts industry within China.


Increasing Robots

Over the past three to four years, a major shift occurred within the automotive industry: The rise of the electric car and the manufacturing that goes along with it.


Robots manufacturing vehicles. Image used courtesy of ABB


An electric car is similar to a conventional car, but the drive train is vastly different, so new manufacturing facilities need to be built with new automation. China uses this industry shift as a stepping stone to develop smarter, flexible, and more efficient manufacturing facilities.

The IFR (International Federation of Robotics) recently reported that the robot density in China changed more dramatically than in any other country worldwide. In 2015, the robot density in China was 49 units to 10,000 employees; in 2020, the density rose to 246 units. This rise in robot installations could be the start of the five-year plan.

Between the IFR report and the HASCO/ABB partnership, it looks as though China is fully committed to the five-year plan. Do you agree? Why or why not?