Industry 4.0 is happening in China

November 03, 2016 12:19
The cost of one robot is only about one year’s salary of an experienced worker. Photo:

I first heard the term Industry 4.0 in a forum in Germany two years ago. I didn’t quite know what it was at the time.

Less than a year later, people in the United States started talking about smart products and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Then last year, China unveiled Made in China 2025, the country's strategy to overhaul its manufacturing sector.

Robotics technology, artificial intelligence and the use of the internet are central to realizing such visions.

And things are happening faster than we think in China.

Consider this: China's oil import bills reached US$120 billion last year, but the country spent US$230 billion on microchip and related products.

The figure for the latter continues to grow.

Robots are already widely used in the country, particularly in Guangdong province.

An entrepreneur explained why his company achieved a 36 percent jump in profit last year. Though revenue expanded only by 7 percent, profit surged after the company fired 6,000 of its workers.

In Shanghai, Shandong and other parts of China, robots are gradually replacing humans on various production lines.

Robot sales surged 130 percent in the first half of this year.

Telecommunication equipment giant Huawei, for instance, is said to be using lots of foreign-made robots in its factories, each costing around 160,000 to 180,000 yuan (US$23,670-US$26,600).

Given that a robot can work around the clock, one unit is equivalent to three workers. And you can buy a robot with just a year’s salary of an experienced worker.

Domestic brands are even cheaper, costing around 120,000 to 130,000 yuan each. But they are less versatile.

Chinese authorities vows  to implement the Made in China 2025 strategy in 10 years.

Though China is still way behind the western world in industrial prowess, we may be able to catch up in a decade.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 2.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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