NEPCON China 2014 introduced new equipment and technologies in its EMA zone, demonstrating how robotics are replacing manual labour. This year, at the Shanghai Expo Center, NEPCON China 2015 will again focus on electronics manufacturing automation, while highlighting automation system integration, a step beyond mere hardware equipment.
Robotics replacing manual labour calls for wider adoption of automation in manufacturing. From 2015, Guangdong will run a three-year incentive plan to encourage companies in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) to replace manual labour with robotics, targeting 600 companies in total. A company that procures robotics to replace manual labour will receive a 10-20% rebate from the government.
In February, Dongguan municipal government published the Dongguan 2025 Manufacturing Strategy, which included 43 strategic measures. One of the measures called for accelerated robotics adoption. Starting from 2014, Dongguan municipal government initiated a plan to encourage robotics adoption by providing an annual rebate of ¥200 ($32.2m) to support companies. Recently, the Hong Kong Productivity Council initiated a co-operation project with Kuka Shanghai to adopt automation solutions in Hong Kong and the PRD. Robotics adoption is designed to provide smart, flexible systems that address rising industry challenges. More importantly, delegating repetitive work to robotics eases pressure on workers, who then can focus on high value work like process planning, quality assurance and more.
The advantage of robotics is well understood. However, business is concerned about the ROI of huge upfront costs. Many companies are hesitant because of the cost-effectiveness issue. For display electronics makers, the tipping point to go robotic is approaching. It is expected robotics will see exponential development in the display electronics sector.
A typical traditional electronic assembly line requires 105 workers; while an upgraded automation line requires only three or four. The typical cost of hiring a worker today is ¥5,000 to 6,000 a month; that said, upfront investment in robotics is well worth the money. Before, Gree employed 96,000 people to obtain an annual revenue of over ¥8m. Now, Gree’s annual revenue is about ¥12m and the company has only 80,000 workers.
Mosopower has also chosen to change. The company’s upgraded production line has reduced the labour force by two thirds. The reduced cost for human labour can cover upfront upgrading costs in two years, meaning the company recovers any input for the technological upgrade within two years. The upfront cost of automation upgrades is closely linked to human labour costs. Noticeably, automation costs are gradually falling (4% YOY). In today’s electronics manufacturing the industry two curves, automation cost and human labour cost, are intersecting.
It is the natural choice of the industry to adopt leading automation technologies and products to improve processes and productivity. Building on this trend, information will be key to smart factories. Smart factories will be key to advancing the competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers.
How is a traditional electronics maker to transition to automation and smart factories? To help answer this question, Reed Exhibitions and China SciTech Automation Alliance will launch the NEPCON & Smart Factory 1.0 Forum. This will explore the future of electronics manufacturing during NEPCON China 2015 and gather leading industry experts, who will examine the adoption of automation products, technologies and standards in electronics manufacturing. Success stories and case studies about smart factory practices in the industry will be shared.
NEPCON China 2015 will gather top automation equipment providers and system integrators, including Zhuhai Intelligent Automation, Robo-Technik, Nitto Denko, SMD Automation, JOT Automation, IPTE. These companies offer a wide range of applications covering industrial robotics, automation agents, warehousing, mobile terminals, electronics assembly and electronics testing. Trade visitors will find everything they want, from automotive electronics to tablets. The introduction of high-end automation will benefit the entire electronics manufacturing industry.
Smart and flexible are two keywords central to automation development. The manufacturing industry is transitioning to a phase of frequent upgrades and low-volume production. Shorter lifecycles require manufacturers to launch a new product every few months, instead of every few years. Smart, flexible systems support more resilient production lines, which can adapt to diverse and customised products that satisfy customer needs. China is transitioning from a ‘made in China’ model to one of ‘smart manufacturing in China’. NEPCON China 2015 is ready to play its part to support this evolution.