Inside the Chinese dumpling factory where robots do all the work

Video offers insight into how automated plant can produce frozen food round the clock with no need for human workers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 2017, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 August, 2017, 6:57pm

A factory in northern China is now making frozen dumplings without a single human.

Instead, rows and rows of robots work 24 hours a day in the unmanned factory in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. They knead the dough, add stuffing, fold the dumplings, package them and fast freeze them.

A video originally posted on the Chinese streaming site Pear Video showed machines working systematically from assembly lines to fold and sort the food.

Online users had mixed reactions to the video, with some worried about possible job losses from automation while others insisted that handmade dumplings were still superior.

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“Will robot-made dumplings be tastier than handmade ones?” a Beijing-based social media user said.

“The taste of these mechanical ones will never be able to replace handmade ones, right now it won’t, and in the future it still won’t,” one Shanghai-based user said. “But the fast food industry may be affected.”

“If everything is automated in the future, it’ll be hard to find a job,” another Shanghai user wrote.

The fully automated factory follows an accelerating trend for Chinese manufacturers to replace human workers with machines.

Last year, the output of industrial robots grew 30.4 per cent. The central government laid out the goal in its latest five-year plan to produce 100,000 industrial robots every year by 2020.

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Companies such as Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, which makes products for Apple, have cut tens of thousands of employees by replacing them with machine labour.

Foxconn has currently deployed over 40,000 Foxbots, or its factory robots, to its production lines. The company said before it aims to achieve 30 per cent automation in its factories by 2020.

But the automation trend is not just hitting China.

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Elon Musk, founder of American electric car manufacturer Tesla, outlined a master plan last year to have more fully automated factories. He said he hopes to have “alien dreadnought factories” – ones where machines are building machines – building the company’s cars by mid-2018.