Robots joining China businesses, factories

March 22, 2013 at 8:59 PM
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BEIJING, March 22 (UPI) -- A restaurateur in Beijing says the robot chef he "employed" last February does "a good job," as robots are set to become a more common sight in the country.

The robot, working with firm dough, peels off noodle strips and shoots them directly into boiling water almost faster than the eyes of diners in the Jinhe Noodle Shop can follow.

"It's cost-effective," the restaurateur named Zhao told China's state-run Xinhua News Agency. "A cook doing this job usually asks for 40,000 yuan ($6,400) a year. I bought the robot last month for 10,000 yuan ($1,600)."

Zhao's robot is a part of a trend in China, as the introduction of relatively cheap robots is beginning to change the country's economic landscape.

Industrial robots, with more sophisticated designs than the noodle-making unit, are increasingly showing up in Chinese factories to take on jobs like welding, painting, ironing and packaging, experts said.

"Next year, China is expected to become the world's biggest robot market, with demand for 32,000 industrial robots," Zhao Jie, an expert on the subject for a state high-tech initiative, said.

As wages grow by 10 to 20 percent annually in China, robots are becoming an attractive option for Chinese businesses, another expert said.

"Chinese companies usually start considering robots when the payment for a skilled worker exceeds 50,000 yuan ($8,060) a year," said Tan Xueke, a manager of the Xinsong Robot Automation Company in Shenyang.

A welding robot, Tam said, can replace the work of three welders at a cost of $24,000, equal to one year's pay to three human welders.

"As a robot can serve for three to five years, it is obviously an economic alternative," Tan said.

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