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Robots to remake China manufacturing?

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Robots to remake China manufacturing?

A Wall Street Journal report indicates that robotics may change the nature of Chinese manufacturing. Middle market manufacturers should take note.

It strikes us as amazing, really.  Here the Chinese have this massive – and we mean massive – labor pool from which to draw low-wage workers, and yet robots will replace them.  If true, it sounds like a recipe for serious social and political upheaval.  Middle market companies who outsource production to China, take note.

From the WSJ:

A new worker's revolution is rising in China and it doesn't involve humans.

With soaring wages and an aging population, electronics factory managers say the day is approaching when robotic workers will replace people on the Chinese factory floor.

A new wave of industrial robots is in development, ranging from high-end humanoid machines with vision, touch and even learning capabilities, to low-cost robots vying to undercut China's minimum wage.

The report goes on to suggest that robots will “transform China's factories, executives say, and also fill a growing labor shortage as the country's youth become increasingly unwilling to perform manual labor.”

Welcome to the challenges of a successful industrial society, China.  Rising expectations lead to rising costs.  That’s something the rocket scientists who always predict that China will economically surpass the US next month (ok, within a decade or so) never seem to take into account. 

China remains a highly fragmented society, with much of the wealth and opportunity concentrated in the coastal regions, and in the major urban areas therein.  Perhaps the main factor in China’s economic growth in recent times has been a vast supply of low-wage workers.  If robots are the future of Chinese manufacturing, one must ask the question:  why outsource to China in the first place?  We’re pretty sure we can produce robots here in the good old USA.

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