Can Chinese Robots Rock the World? Chinese Robot Company QKM Technology Founder SHI Jinbo Talks About the Future of Chinese Robots
Manufacturers should not rush, they need to focus on the current status, make all their efforts, and positive things will arrive naturally in the end. The entrepreneurs in this industry should detach themselves from craving too much for profits too early.
Oct 19, sponsored by iyiou.com (亿欧) and SPEK (思贝克), the "BATi Intelligent Manufacturing and intelligent product Forum" was successfully held at Qian Hai Van Ke International Conference Center in Shenzhen, China.
QKM Technology(李群自动化) attended the forum. As a Chinese high-tech enterprise specializing in R&D, production and sales of lightweight high-end industrial robots, the company is dedicated to providing innovative robot products and services to manufacturers, system integrators and scientific research institutions.
Founded in March 2011, The company has SCARA, Delta and the six-axis robot as their main product lines, also offering software platforms and personalized intelligent solutions. Their service network covers the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the Central Region of China.
QKM Technology was founded by the world's top robot experts and scholars, who are masters of core technologies in robot control, powering and robot vision. Their innovation center is full of experts in industrial robots.
In 2013, it developed the world's first integrated parallel control robot. In 2015, it independently designed and delivered the very first full robots automatic mooncake packaging production line; in 2016, the self-developed SCARA robot and Delta robot became the first batch of robot products which achieved the standard quality certification in China; in 2017, the new generation of intelligent robot distributed drive controller was successfully launched. By far, the first robot produced by the company has been running for 25,000 hours cumulatively. The company has completed the Series C fundraising phase.
The applications of their robots range from the fine production of the 3C industry, the high-intensity production of the hardware industry to the clean production of the food industry, and the newly emerging fields like pharmaceutical and renewable energy.
QKM Technology provides professional automation solutions for users in different industries, promotes the integration of advanced technologies and manufacturing industries, and actively helps the development of the robot industry in China.
In this forum, QKM Technology founder SHI Jinbo (石金博) mentioned many points, which explained how she thinks of the failure of Rethink Robotics, why the "four big families(YASKAWA, FANUC, KUKA AG, ABB)" continued their successes after 50 to 100 years, and where does she believe the future of Chinese Industrial Robot lies in.
Rethink's failure stems from the four following factors
Firstly, they overestimated the impact of technology in industrial development, focused too much on technology R&D, and neglected marketing. Secondly, their products feature fancy appearances, however, are too costly to produce. Thirdly, developing industrial robots not only involves putting parts together, but also requires strong understandings and research abilities in various fields (mechanics, electronics, sensors, data, software, and hardware. etc), it can be quite challenging for a company. Companies producing industrial robots cannot rush in their development.
Lastly, the recent revenue growth from the "four big families" mainly comes from mainland China, they all had reallocated their resources to China; While Rethink had still been producing their products in Tai Wan and doing R&D in the U.S until very recent time. Rethink Robotics had only a few sales agents in mainland China, and these agents are not even experienced in the industry.
Is there a scale effect in the industrial robot industry?
Some Chinese believe the bigger the company is, the more cost advantages the company may enjoy. While SHI reckons as China's labor costs rise, the needs for bigger production capacity and efficiency will grow stronger. Hence the demand for robots in the entire manufacturing industry becomes a necessity, instead of being only a pure enhancing element to the industry today. The necessity opens an opportunity to all robot manufacturers, which means no matter how big the scale of the company is, it can find its own room to play.
Where are the opportunities for industrial robots in China?
Though the profits of the "four big families" are growing, their market share has declined significantly from 73% in 2008 to 44% in 2017. Can the markets they left out make opportunities for these Chinese Industrial Robot companies?
In fact, according to the guests in the forum mentioned above, there are still a few sub-industries in newly emerged fields, as well as some production lines in the existing industries were not touched by the "big four families" previously, which leads to some good opportunities for Chinese companies. Furthermore, Chinese companies can react faster to customers' needs compared to their western counterparts.
SHI, on the other hand, emphasized that Chinese companies' opportunities mainly lie in where the differentiation between Chinese firms and western companies is. Thanks to Jobs, the birth of smartphones had unfolded the age of strong demand for high-end sophisticated consumer goods. Consumers yell for good quality products, seamless design, and convenient services in almost every industry. Therefore, traditional manufacturing needs to react to the transformation with upgrading. Where there used to be people in the production line, now is gradually being replaced by robots.
QKM Technology positioned itself to be a lightweight robot product producer. The goal is to make the robots be able to quickly respond upon various requests. The founder doesn't believe the "four big families" have huge advantages comparing with her company in this field. If these Chinese companies could find the blank spaces where the western companies had not set foot in yet, they must have abundant chances to success.
Today, there are still many manufacturers copying foreign models in China, while the western companies always praise innovation and independence, for example, ABB has always been insisting on independent design; which may bring cost increases at the very beginning, but yields great benefits in the end. Copying others could lead to short-term profits, but it weakens the company brand image in the long term. Also, after the company matures, only copying others cannot give the company enough competitive edge compared to its rivals in the long run.
SHI argued the high-tech companies should not deceive themselves. It's not a cheering fact that a few specialists in technology-intensive industries try to fool themselves by only mimicking the appearances of the products, but failed to fully understand and copy the core technology which powers the products. SHI strongly disagreed with this, saying a successful company which aims far cannot emphasize more on serious R&D.
She also recognizes the Industrial robot as a long-term project, the core technology, and the product are the keys to success. Manufacturers should not rush, they need to focus on the current status, make all their efforts, and positive things will arrive naturally in the end. The entrepreneurs in this industry should detach themselves from craving too much for profits too early.
The success in the industrial robot industry in China cannot exist without the cooperation of manufacturers of all robot parts, according to SHI.
Author: LI Jia. Write to LI Jia at LIJia@EqualOcean.com