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Analysis EO
Analysis · 2
Analysis EO
Dec 26, 2018 07:51 pm ·

QKM Technology is still not smart enough

Received several rounds of the stunning amount of funds, totalled about USD 40 million ; backed by the Chinese government; promoted, every now and then, by the mainstream media like CCTV(China Central Television) and Dragon Media(东方卫视) in China; QKM Technology(李群自动化) seems to enjoy its glorious status as a unicorn among high-tech companies in China. They strategically engineered their product portfolio, carefully chose the appropriate application scenarios for their robots, and acted as a babysitter for their clients, almost covered every need from them. The previous CEO SHI Jinbo(石金博), appeared in almost every photo with her signature smile reflecting her power and confidence. It looks like she is certainly going to seize the success in this battle among Chinese industrial robot manufacturers. It appears to be so smart and so high profile, but if it were really so very smart, why it doesn't challenge the big foreign industrial robot manufacturers instead but only still messing around with the fairly weak Chinese players? The reason behind this is, obviously, QKM's robots are not that 'smart' still. SHI mentioned in previous interviews that she is very optimistic about the future development of Chinese Industrial Robot Industry, stressing on the potential opportunities Chinese manufacturers might find because the huge western players like YASKAWA and ABB, were not focusing on lightweight industrial robots. Therefore, they could lock their eyes on lightweight robots to be able to grasp the market share left out by the giants. However, according to official statistics released by the White Paper on China Industrial Robot Industry, 90% of the Industrial Robots used in China are produced by foreign brands. There is obviously not enough room to play judging from the current status quo. XU Xiaonian(许小年), economist and the Professor of Economics and Finance at China Europe International Business School said a day ago in an interview that China has already entered into the post-industrialization period, stating that most of the industries in China, except the service sector, had already developed to a quite mature stage that return on investment from them is not worthwhile to be expected at all. This comment from a Chinese experienced economist shocked me because almost all high tech machines utilized in Chinese factories and labs are designed and manufactured by companies from the U.S., Japan, UK, and Germany. In other word, companies who can engineer and produce these high tech machines technically almost do not exist in China. There still remains huge empty space for Chinese companies to explore. Where do we need these high tech machines? Pretty much everywhere in today's highly automated manufacturing process. Pharmaceutical, computers, automobiles, food and drinks, clothing, to name but a few. What the Chinese companies had been doing all these time? The smart ones are trying all their efforts to grab the market share left out by western tycoons, hoping that one day, they could develop cutting-edge technology to possibly compete with the early starters. While some others do not even dare to set foot in these industries, but only staying comfortably in the area which China is strong in, such as, clothing, and food and drinks. These scenarios normally do not require high precision machines and facilities. If you take a look at QKM Technology's product portfolio, you could notice they developed all together 5 different types of robots, only one of them is a 6-axis robot, named Helios, while the others are all 4-axis ones. Comparing to 4-axis robots, 6-axis robots are mostly articulated robots, which are robots with rotary joints. Six-axis robots allow for greater flexibility and can perform a wider variety of applications than robots with fewer axis. The major robot products offered by huge western companies in the industrial robot industry like FANUC are robots of more than 4-axis, some of them even reached 13-axis and above. According to the comparison above, the overall picture for the Chinese industrial robot industry is not so pinky after all. SCARA robot is hot in China, it could get hotter Currently, the major products QKM Technology offers are lightweight SCARA industrial robots applied in 3C and other light industries in China. SHI indicated they choose SCARA robot because they recognize the opportunities lie in the market the western companies are not focusing on, but maybe the technology barrier is the true reason behind this. SCARA is an acronym for Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm, meaning it is compliant in the X-Y axis, and rigid in the Z-axis. The SCARA configuration is designed to handle material handling operations. The world's first SCARA was developed by Makino, Though the western giants seem too high to reach for QKM Technology, their SCARA robots could possibly help them to lead the industrial robot industry in China. SCARA robots have, in fact, been widely used in many industries such as 3C, semiconductors, food, and pharmaceuticals, etc. They are believed to be able to get more popular in the near future in China based on the following four factors: a. The acceleration of automation in the manufacturing process in China b. The rising number of aged population in China will result in less working force, factories will be baffled by the difficulties in finding employees. c. Compared to 6-axis industrial robots, though SCARA robots only have four-axis, they can meet the current needs of Chinese manufacturers. They are reliable and safe to be utilized, and the price has a significant advantage. In recent years, along with the development of the 3C industry in China, the market size of SCARA robots has grown rapidly. According to GGII(高工产研) and other resources, in 2017, 70% of the market share of SCARA robots in China is still occupied by foreign brands, the sales volume of SCARA in the Chinese market was 23,000 units, increased 75.57% year-on-year. The market size was USD 156.68 million, increased 61.83% compared with the figure recorded the same time last year. During the period from 2014 to 2017, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of SCARA robots was 47.45%, much higher than the CAGR of all industrial robot, 33.78%. If the market for SCARA robots continues to perform as strong as last year, it seems there will be quite enough room to play for Chinese SCARA robot companies, including QKM Technology. However, many challenges remain on the route of development of Chinese SCARA robots. a. Mediocre technology level due to a later start The emergence of China's first SCARA robot dated back to 1992. This was more than ten years later than foreign countries. Due to the late start of China's development, many core technologies were not fully developed, or to some extent, not as advanced as foreign companies. Chinese SCARA robots still need to "strengthen their muscles" to catch up with their "foreign brothers". b. Foreign companies dominate the market As mentioned above, SCARA robots in China's market mainly come from foreign enterprises. Epson and Yamaha, two companies together, accounted for more than 60% of the world market. In the past two years, the SCARA robot market suddenly became popular. As the companies such as Adtech(众为兴), Delta Electronics(台达), FUJISAN, QKM Technology, Risong Technology(广州瑞松), Shenzhen Inovance Tech(汇川技术), and FACC(珠海智新) entered the market, the number of SCARA industrial robots produced has increased significantly, however, the overall quality is still unable to compete with foreign companies. In the international market, Chinese companies certainly have no place right now. The global market is basically occupied by Japanese and European companies. Among them, Japanese companies occupy more than 70% of the market share, and their technology has always represented the world's most advanced level. Under such circumstances, if Chinese enterprises wish to rise up in the international market, they need to break through the foreign monopolies firstly through core technologies development and regain their local market with local advantages and their technology strength. In the future, the cooperating relationship between human and machine is the new trend. Also, the demand for lighter weight and more flexibility of industrial robots is going to further grow. As the application scenarios for SCARA robots expand beyond 3C to more industrial fields, robots need to face with more complex operating environments with better flexibility and lighter weight, they also need to be smaller to fit for limited spaces in industrial production. Author: LI Jia; Write to at LiJia@EqualOcean.com

Analysis EO
Analysis · 2
Analysis EO
Dec 25, 2018 04:04 pm ·

Application for Light Weight Industrial Robot and Its Future in China

In light industries such as 3C Industry (Computer, Communication, and Consumer Electronics), products are always replaced rapidly, which poses the problem that the products and solutions are very difficult to standardize and requires a lot of customization work. How to improve research and development efficiency and choose the right application for robots is an important issue that many companies in the industry have to consider. How to improve R&D efficiency and choose the right applications for robots? When choosing application scenarios, the following important factors are normally considered: a. Choose industry-leading customers with high-profit margins and urgent improvement requirements in terms of production and quality. The reasons behind this are, firstly, they have a strong awareness and demand for improvements in their manufacturing processes, and expect automation to help them lift up their efficiencies. Chinese industrial robot company QKM Technology(李群自动化) leads the example in selecting the right type of customers. It is a high-tech enterprise specializing in the R&D, production, sales and application of lightweight high-end industrial robots. QKM Technology recently completed its Series C Fundraising, received nearly USD 17 Million. The investors are Yue Ke Financial Group(粤科金融集团) and Ying Capital(天鹰资本). QKM Technology's industrial robots ensure moon cake producing companies' capacity and efficiency during the busy production seasons; refined production automation can help achieve a higher percentage of quality products in each batch compared to the ratio achieved by humans. Secondly, industry-leading customers have enough budget to support the implementation of automation in their factories. Thirdly, the production processes of these leading companies are more mature, more standardized, which is very beneficial for QKM Technology to better understand the industry process, define the applications, and make standardized products, and promote it in the industry. b. Process stability of the industry and versatility of the production lines Process stability of these leading companies is higher than the other companies in the industry. They always also have very sorted-out product category. After QKM Technology analyzed the production line in details and come up with customized robots, when the product size or product specification changes, these robots can help users to respond and adapt quickly to demands, therefore achieve high production efficiency. For example, one sorting system developed by QKM Technology for its hardware industry client in Zhejian province can adapt to 8 kinds of products without making any changes. c. Costs & Return Analysis for Clients Customers in different fields have their own expectations for the period of time they could get returns from their investment. Therefore, QKM Technology will inspect the customer's sites, analyze the product models and discuss their development potentials with the customer, to understand the actual needs of the customer, also, taking consideration of the return on investment to give an indication of whether to install robots in their production spaces, and if so, what the best proposal is. QKM Technology always starts with finding the leading enterprises in the corresponding fields, conduct in-depth research on them, and then make standardized products to suit their needs. After being tested excessively, they will promote the products to the whole industry via integrators. QKM Technology's large product portfolio and continuous exploration Until now, QKM Technology has launched automation solutions such as mobile phone glass screen picking, micro motor assembly, mooncake automatic packaging line, and elbow hose sorting in 3C, food, hardware, and other industries. It is also exploring new fields such as pharmaceuticals and renewable energy sector. In addition, QKM Technology will form modular packages for individual applications, such as sorting stations, scanning stations, etc., and continuously update functions to be quickly reused in new application scenarios, thereby reducing costs in customization. QKM Technology also extended to the upstream core component field, and independently developed a distributed intelligent controlling system, which is considered to be the "brain" of the robot. New opportunities for Chinese industrial robots The automation and intelligent transformation of light industries have brought to fresh opportunities for Chinese industrial robot companies. China is, in fact, the world's largest industrial robot market. In 2017, more than one-third of the world's total sales of industrial robots are from China. On the other hand, the Chinese industrial robot market is mainly dominated by foreign brands, especially in the mid-to-high-end market. According to statistics, in 2017, approximately 90% of the industrial robots utilized in the Chinese automotive industry are from foreign companies. However, Pre-CEO, now chairman of QKM Technology SHI Jinbo is quite optimistic about industrial robot's future in China. "We mustn't be too pessimistic, China's industrial robot industry started a lot later than it does in foreign countries, it's quite reasonable and natural for it to occupy tiny market share.” Also, foreign industrial robot manufacturers like YASKAWA, FANUC, KUKA, and ABB are mainly concentrated in the heavy duty industry sectors. As the labor costs in China continue to climb up, and talent acquisition becomes increasingly challenging, the automation and intelligent transformation of light industries would be able to solve these problems, which has brought a new wave of opportunities. Different from the high standardization in heavy industry, light industry is so much less standardized, it is involved with a lot of manual work carried out by human beings. The movement of human beings is extremely flexible, the robots designed for heavy industries cannot adapt to these application scenarios, which gives new opportunities for China's lightweight industrial robot manufacturers. Which differentiates the outperformers from the average in lightweight industrial robots is not the price, but product quality. Only by making its robot intelligent enough and easier enough to be utilized in different application scenarios can a company stand out from its peers. Author: LI Jia. Write to LI Jia at LIJia@EqualOcean.com

Analysis EO
Analysis · 2
Analysis EO
Dec 19, 2018 12:58 pm ·

QKM Technology founder talks about Industrial Robot in China

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