ABB, a Swedish-Swiss industrial giant and one of the world’s four largest robotics companies, announced the official opening of its robotics factory in Shanghai on December 2. The fully automated flexible manufacturing factory, which combines production and research and development, covers an area of 67,000 square meters with an investment of $150 million.
The factory connects the physical world with the digital world, creating a manufacturing ecosystem that uses virtual planning and production management systems to collect and analyze data to improve performance and productivity. The plant ditches traditional, fixed assembly lines in favor of flexible, modular production units that are digitally connected and serviced by intelligent robots.
Robotic systems can perform tasks such as tightening screws, assembly and material handling, allowing workers to be rerouted to more valuable work. The new robot manufacturing and R&D center has turned ABB’s vision of the factory of the future into a reality, enabling a more resilient, faster and more efficient production and internal logistics.
Covering an area of 8,000 square meters, the factory’s new research and development center will accelerate innovation in artificial intelligence, digitalization and software, with focus on areas such as autonomous mobility, digital twinning, machine vision and low-code programming software to make robots smarter, more flexible, safer and easier to use.
The new plant will produce more than 90% of the company’s products sold in China. ABB expects global robot sales to grow from $80 billion today to $130 billion by 2025 with China as the world’s largest robot market. In 2021, the number of installed robots in China accounted for 51% of the global total, and the operating stock of robots exceeded 1 million units.
However, the new factory is not just for the Chinese market. The factory, one of ABB’s three global production bases, will replace the existing factory and provide support to customers in Asia. The plants in Wester Ross, Sweden, and Auburn Hills, Michigan, will continue to serve customers in Europe and the Americas.
“One of the four families of global industrial robots” is ABB’s most well-known label. ABB, together with its predecessors ASEA of Sweden and BBC of Switzerland, pioneered the world’s first three-phase power transmission system, high-voltage direct current transmission and the first electric industrial robot. In 1988, ASEA merged with BBC to form ABB, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
China is one of ABB’s most important R&D and production bases, and the company was the first multinational enterprise to conduct local R&D and production of industrial robots in the country. ABB’s robots have been in the Chinese market for nearly 30 years and have been supporting various industries including automotive, electronics, metals, plastics, logistics, etc.