Midea says its 10 billion yuan hub is also for innovations

Besides making robots, Midea’s Foshan centre will also be a research hub for appliances

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 3:57pm

Midea Group Co. said its 10-billion yuan (HK$11.7 billion) factory and research centre in southern China will become the hub for developing the next generation of smart electrical appliances that use artificial intelligence, in addition to producing robots and automatons.

The company, based in Foshan city in Guangdong province, has already combined the product teams responsible for water heaters, air conditioners, kitchen appliances into the new hub since the end of 2015, Midea said in an email to the South China Morning Post.

The centre will conduct research and development in fields such as artificial intelligence, mechanics, materials, water treatment and nutrition, Midea said.

In an August 1 notice, the Shunde district government in Foshan announced Midea’s plan to build a factory and innovation centre on a piece of land occupying 270,000 square meters. The project, which will encompass clusters of buildings for research, production and employees’ amenities, can accommodate more than 10,000 people, Midea said.

Among other applications, the hub would assemble robots, with the annual capacity to produce 7,000 industrial robots and commercial automatons every year.

The investment underscores Midea’s ambition to maintain an edge over competitors in manufacturing, and to lead China’s forays into automation and robotics. The company is investing in innovations to replace its low-cost advantage in manufacturing, exploiting business opportunities in China’s ageing population and setting up incubators to nurture new technology, Midea said.

Midea set up two ventures in August last year with Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corp. to develop industrial robots, as well as service automatons. This week, Midea announced it was buying more than 94 per cent of German robotics maker Kuka AG, one of the world’s biggest producers of robotics systems.