Swiss engineering group ABB (ABBN.S) plans to spend $150 million to build a new factory in China to make industrial robots. The factory will be located near ABB’s China robotics campus and is due to be operating by the end of 2020. The new facility will produce robots for China as well as for export elsewhere in Asia.
The Shanghai factory adds to the more than $2.4 billion that ABB has invested in China. China has been considered a key market for the company since 1992. It is ABB’s No. 2 market after the United States. China has been rapidly expanding its robot workforce. In 2017, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China.
The Shanghai plant, located in the Kangqiao area, will produce the full range of ABB’s products. ABB’s industrial robots are used to build automobiles and assemble electronic devices, among other applications. The factory will also include a research and development center for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
For the new facility, the company’s goal was to build the most “flexible” space, according to Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of ABB’s Robotics business. Robots and humans will work side by side. Objects will move through a mobile grid as they’re built. Autopiloted carts will move around the factory to cart necessary supplies.
Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Spiesshofer said that annual capacity for the facility will be around 100,000 robots, or one quarter of last year’s global demand. ABB did not give a new employee count for the factory. The company currently employs more than 2,000 workers in China.
The new factory will be the Swiss company’s single largest robotics facility around the world. ABB also has robotics plants in Västerås, Sweden and Auburn Hills, Michigan.