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Dongguan to Accelerate Replacement of Factory Workers with Robots

Posted: 06/27/2014 8:00 am

robot manufacturing The City of Dongguan has passed a resolution that will accelerate the replacement of human labor with robots throughout the city, reports the Dongguan Times.

Called the “Promotion of Dongguan Enterprises to ‘Switch from Human to Machine Labor’ Plan (2014-2016)”, the resolution looks to replace human workers with robots through the implementation of 1,000-1,500 projects in factories throughout the city by 2016.

The resolution targets companies with concentrated labor requirements, or companies that are tech-oriented.

READ: Shenzhen Firm Continues Trend of Replacing Human Labor with Robots

The resolution seeks to open two to three dedicated robot industry parks by 2020, and anywhere from six to eight robot facilities in concentrated neighborhoods. The plan is said to be valued at over RMB 700 million.

While not a law, the resolution strongly urges Dongguan companies to begin adopting technological advancements as part of their production. Companies seem to be responding favorably to the plan. Ninety-two percent of Dongguan factories are in favor of replacing human labor with robots, the report says. Forty-nine percent of Dongguan factories have already cut 10% of their labor, while 20% have cut over 30% of their labor.

READ: Strikes on the Rise as Workers Set to Be Replaced by Robots

The idea of robots replacing human workers is hardly a new phenomenon in the Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou passed a similar resolution which aims to have 80% of all manufacturing production performed by robots by 2020.

A recent rumor that Foxconn plans to hire 100,000 extra workers to accommodate production of the next iPhone has fueled speculation its Shenzhen location will be the site of the record-setting hiring boom. Whether the rumor is true or not, any new recruits at Foxconn will have to contend with the million robots that are set to join the assembly line by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, as Dongguan and other PRD cities look to decrease their labor force, 17 million new residents are expected to settle in rural cities around Guangdong as hukou resident restrictions are relaxed.


Photo: Dongguan Times


Strikes On The Rise as Workers Set To Be Replaced By Robots

Posted: 06/16/2014 6:32 pm

labor unrestGuangdong labor conditions look to become more complicated and unpredictable just as the province looks to welcome some 13 million migrant workers as new residents within six to seven years.

Labor unrest in Guangdong has been growing this year due to a slowing economy and rising costs, reports Reuters. According to China Labor Bulletin, there have been 319 strikes throughout China this year, with approximately 100 occurring in Guangdong alone.

Wages and Benefits Key Sticking Points

Apparently the Yue Yuan strike, which saw 30,000 workers walk off the job earlier this year, was actually started inadvertently by a manager at the company.

READ: 30,000 Workers Strike in Dongguan, Robots Planned As Replacements

According to the account compiled by a labor group, a manager first notified employees about the paltry amount the company was making to staff social welfare.

Even though some companies like Timberland and Nike tried to distance themselves from the strike, Adidas was proactive in campaigning for the release of two workers that had been detained for protesting at the factory.

READ: Shenzhen Firm Continues Trend of Replacing Human Labor with Robots

In a statement to the Guardian, Adidas said, ”With respect to the arrest of two workers’ representatives, Mr Zhang and Mr Lin, we were engaged with several labor rights groups in Southern China, to try to determine where they were being detained and offered our support to secure their release. We also wrote to the Dongguan mayoral office, calling for his immediate release.”

Things are getting better on the salary front, however. The manufacturing sector saw wages rise by more than 16% in the first nine months of 2013, according to Datastream.

RELATED: Labor Unrest Grows in Guangdong with
Two More High-Profile Protests

Labor Activists Released

Furthermore, the province has recently seen the release of two high-profile labor activists. Meng Han was recently released after serving nine months in jail. Meng had been accused of “assembling a crowd to disrupt public order” during a rooftop protest in August 2013 at the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Auxiliary Hospital. Meng and 11 other security guards had been protesting their employment contracts and and their social insurance benefits.

Meanwhile in Shenzhen, charges of “gathering a crowd and disturbing the order of public transportation” have been dropped against Wu Guijun for his part in a protest at Diweixin.

Taxi Drivers Barred From Forming Unions

However, any labor reform in Guangdong probably won’t mean taxi drivers can form their own unions. Drivers in Dongguan, in particular, lament the state of their industry but aren’t in any position to make changes through group organization.

Dongguan taxi drivers have been hit hard by the prostitution crackdown, and have long been suffering from an industry where they are forced to pay kickbacks called “tea money“. The plight of the Dongguan taxi drivers gained prominence when a driver died after working a 24-hour shift. And yet, these labor conditions are accepted as something that can not be changed.

Taxi driver Mr Li, 41, confirms the bad working conditions. He said, “During a bad day, you have no choice but to just sit in the cab the whole 12 hours. If you don’t work, you still have to pay the company. And the tea money is always like a monkey on your back. Everyone wants to earn it back as soon as possible.”

But Li admits the working conditions aren’t liable to change soon. “There is something fundamentally wrong with this job but we are not organised and don’t know how to join forces,” Li said. “That is why we don’t have a say in our pay and working conditions.”

“We are like a heap of loose sand here, there is little solidarity,” he added.

READ: Guangdong Hukou Reform to Populate Rural Cities With Migrants

The Days of Manual Labor Are Numbered

It may get worse for some factory workers in Guangdong. The high cost of manufacturing has led some companies to start using robots as an alternative to using human labor.

Perhaps signifying a growing trend, the Shenzhen Robotics Association said the annual output of the robotics industry in Shenzhen had exceeded its initial goal of RMB 20 billion last year. Foxconn is currently using approximately 10,000 robots in its Shenzhen factories, and it plans to expand to a million robots within three years. Another Shenzhen company, Rapoo Technology, incorporated 75 robots into its production line in 2011, and has been able to cut 2,200 staff.

Guangzhou plans to have 80% of all of its manufacturing production performed by robots by 2020.

In light of these many developments, we would guess that the only safe job these days is building robots. Guangzhou is leading the way, proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones that will produce 100,000 robots a year by 2020.


Photo: sfgate


Shenzhen Firm Continues Trend of Replacing Human Labor With Robots

Posted: 05/28/2014 12:19 pm

robot revolution The hammer and sickle may soon be held aloft by a robotic arm: China Shenzhen Rapoo Technology seeks to cut its work staff by continuing to replace human workers with the purchase of additional robots, reports 21st Century Business Herald.

Rapoo Technology, a wireless mouse and keyboard manufacturer, purchased 75 industrial robots from robotics leader ABB in 2011, a pioneering move for the sector at the time.

Deng Qiuwei, deputy general manager of Rapoo Technology, explained the company has increased wages by 10% four times over the past three years, saying the cost for each worker is currently between RMB 5,000 and RMB 6,000 (US$800-960). Therefore he argues the company needs to invest in robots.

Deng said spoke with maximum efficiency when he said with the utmost logic:

“We had 3,200 workers in 2011, and have around 1,000 now.”

This is the latest in robot labor news.

  • Foxconn announced the introduction of robots to its assembly line in 2011, with plans to have a million robots in place this year.
  • Guangzhou plans to have 80% of all its manufacturing production performed by robots instead of humans by 2020.
  • The Guangzhou government is proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones that will make 100,000 robots a year by 2020; however, it is not known if the job of making robots could also be given to robots.

But lest we forget, regulations on hukou requirements have recently been relaxed to attract more migrants to settle in Guangdong’s smaller cities as a way to keep up the province’s demand for labor.


Photo: Destructoid


30,000 Workers Strike in Dongguan, Robots Planned As Replacements

Posted: 04/18/2014 2:58 pm

robot worker labor factory

Labor strife in Guangdong can be had to generalize: as some labor disputes flare up and workers are granted concessions, other labor protesters are convicted for “disturbing social order”. And so, we have the following pieces of news, both announced recently.

There are currently 30,000 workers are on strike at the Yu Yuan Industrial shoe making factory complex in Dongguan, the Associated Press reports. Workers have been protesting the company’s lack of social security and welfare benefits, and have been staging periodic work stoppages at the factory since April 5.

Yu Yuan makes components used in shoes by Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance in a gigantic complex made up of ten separate factories. The Nanfang had first told you about this labor dispute back on April 7.

SEE: Foxconn to Replace Shenzhen Workers with Robots

Striker Cui Tiangang, 31, was adamant on the demands made by the workers. Cui said, “We expect at least an explanation, to give us an answer… We will keep on striking if there is no offer.”

If true to claims made by the organizers, this protest is the largest strike of its kind to ever take place in China. As historic an occasion that may be, Cui’s solidarity for his fellow worker may just be a quaint notion in the not-too distant future.

An industrial development guideline issued by the Guangzhou municipal government is encouraging the use of robots instead of human labor by providing companies with cash rebates. In fact, Guangzhou plans to have 80 percent of all its manufacturing production to be performed by robots instead of humans by 2020.

READ: Strike by Sanitation Workers in Guangzhou
Leaves the City Messy, But Wins a Pay Raise

That’s not all: the Guangzhou government is proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones. Each of these in turn will make 100,000 robot units a year by 2020.

It’s simply great that waves upon waves of robots will be given the jobs necessary to provide for their robot families, but a reliance upon technology does not always solve the problem at hand as seen in the documentary about the decline of American prosperity, Robocop (1987).

Sure, it will be great to reap the rewards of a worker that won’t go on strike, and will neither arrest nor harm any senior executives of OCP. Luo Jun, executive chairman of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, predicts the annual output value gained from the robotics industry in China will equal 300 billion yuan (US$48 billion) in 10 years.

READ: Dongguan Workers on Strike at Samsung Supply Factory

However, industry experts are warning against an over-reliance upon the Western market and its technology as well as the danger of overcapacity. At that point, both robots and workers will be out of a job.

Manufacturing production is a huge industry for China and if this sector should ever suffer a economic breakdown with catastropic consequences, we may be referring to Robocop more often. If it isn’t “I’ll buy that for a dollar!” then it will be this:

“Riches, leave.”

Photo: Robotics Business Review

More stories:
Bra Workers Strike After Being Told to “Jump Off a Roof”
Another Suicide at Foxconn? Employee Jumps Off 9th Floor After Slitting Wrists
Another Worker Plummets to His Death At Foxconn
Guangdong Factory Workers Strike After Being Insulted By Boss


US doctors in Texas will soon control a robot operating on patients in Shenzhen

Posted: 07/3/2013 11:00 am

Patients in Shenzhen who want medical attention from American doctors will no longer have to fly halfway around the world to get it.

Under a new agreement, US doctors will be able to control advanced robots at Shenzhen People’s Hospital to perform surgery remotely.  The deal is between the hospital in Shenzhen and the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and also covers cooperation and the training of medical staff.

The biggest part of the deal, though, centers around the ability of US-based doctors to conduct surgical operations on Shenzhen-based patients.  Methodist Hospital boasts some of the most advanced surgical apparatus in the world, such as these surgical robots, Shenzhen Economic Daily reports.

The robot, courtesy of U.S. Health.

US Health News described the robot, which resembles an oversized carpet cleaner, in this July 2009 article:

Robots are increasingly making their mark in the operating room, too. Originally approved for general abdominal procedures like gallbladder removal, robotic surgery—the surgeon manipulates computer controls rather than a scalpel—is now used for heart and prostate cancer surgery, gynecologic procedures, and bariatric surgery, among others. With the help of a tiny camera inserted through an incision “port,” a surgeon can see the surgical field onscreen as he sits at a console in the operating room, from which he guides the robot’s instruments, also inserted through ports.

Someday, the doctor guiding the robot could be sitting at a console literally across the world from the patient. If remote surgery eventually becomes commercially available, many lives might be saved in hard-to-reach locations, from remote islands to battlefields.

Sun Tong, who is responsible for international affairs at the Methodist Hospital, said the hospital has four surgical robots in operation.

Yang Song, President of Shenzhen People’s Hospital, revealed that some staff have been selected to learn English and train in Houston. They are expected to start flying out this year.

The Methodist Hospital performed its first operation remotely through the use of a robot in 2004, and it was a success. There’s no word on when the robots will be deployed in Shenzhen.


Watch: A robot now serving up food and drinks at a Guangzhou restaurant

Posted: 02/27/2013 12:43 pm

A restaurant which has been opened in Guangzhou by a university graduate boasts a robot for a waiter, Guangdong Morning reported today.

Here’s the robot at work

Liu Xiwang, 27, who graduated just over two years ago, took a year after graduating to invent the robot. As well as being able to serve food, the robot can say simple phrases such as “Enjoy your meal.” Its voice has been described as “alluring” and “effeminate” by customers.

Located on Guangzhou Boulevard in Baiyun District, Impressions Robot Restaurant has already proved a hit with young people. Some children have even been known to grope the robot because they don’t want it to leave.

The 1.3 metre tall, 20 kg robot, has software with which to remember table numbers and has a camera for a head. It can use the camera to take photographs of guests. It uses its right hand to collect used dishes and its left hand to serve. It cost Liu around 50,000 yuan to make the first robot.

“It takes five minutes after ordering to bring a meal to customers. But after delivering five meals, the robot needs to be recharged,” Liu told Guangzhou News.

When it needs recharging, the robot returns to the kitchen and says “I am out of electricity.” It takes around 30 minutes to recharge.

On the restaurant’s first day of business in December last year, Liu got up at 5 a.m. because he was too nervous to sleep. The first day turned out to be a huge success and the robot did not let him down.

However, Liu is first to admit that his robot is far from perfect and is prone to malfunctioning. If the restaurant continues to see its business expand, the robot won’t be good enough to meet demand.

Liu is working on a second, more refined robot, and says it will be good to go within three months.

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