Future tech

Southern China’s robot manufacturers upbeat about sales after busy first quarter

News of government backing for industry has helped sales rebound since start of the year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 April, 2016, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 2016, 5:56pm

Manufacturers of industrial robots in Guangdong are banking on sales rebounding this year as demand recovers and the authorities push to stimulate growth.

Many of the Pearl River Delta’s robot makers have raised goals for 2016 after slowing growth last year sent them well off target.

“We can feel the market is recovering, much better than the second half of last year when the market was really bad,” Shi Xianwei, sales director at Shenzhen-based Second Intelligent Equipment, said on Friday at the China Information Technology Expo. The company makes dispensing and spraying robots.

“I think our annual sales this year will reach 300 million yuan (HK$360 million), triple last year’s total. I’m very confident because we’ve sold about 30 industrial robots for a total of about 100 million yuan,” Shi said.

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He Zexian, sales director of LXD Robotics, one of the delta’s biggest robot makers, said he saw signs of improvement after last year’s woes.

He said demand dwindled late last year in tandem with the economic slowdown.

“Since August and September, most of our clients – both those domestic manufacturing giants and small- and mid-sized factories – shelved purchase plans as economic conditions, especially imports and exports, became uncertain,” He said.

He said the company reached only half of its 300 million yuan target last year, with most competitors forced to engage in a price war.

Now we are relieved. Business in the first three months of this year was good even though it’s usually an off-season
He Zexian, sales director of LXD Robotics

“But now we are relieved. Business in the first three months of this year was good even though it’s usually an off-season. Many clients made orders that were put on hold last year after exports started recovering,” he said.

His team is again aiming to reach 300 million yuan in sales this year.

“Sales already reached 30 million yuan between January and March, 65 per cent more than the same period last year,” he said.

Guangdong Jaten Robot & Automation, another major robotics maker in the province, aims to double its sales this year.

The company, which makes automated guided vehicles such as driverless forklift trucks, initially expected sales of 160 million yuan in 2015, a jump from 70 million yuan in 2014. But by December, 90 million yuan sounded “more realistic”, saleswoman Huang Qiwen said at the time.

“Our goal for this year is 200 million yuan,” sales director Ma Bo said on Friday.

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The optimism comes amid hopes of official support for the industry.

In a five-year proposal released on Wednesday, the ministries of finance and industry and the National Development and Reform Commission vowed to make significant progress by 2020 in the production capacity, creativity and competitiveness of the industry.

Such announcements from the central government were usually echoed by support at the provincial and city level, the industry insiders said.

Our goal for this year is 200 million yuan
Ma Bo, Guangdong Jaten Robot

The three senior salesmen said their companies would launch more new products this year to compete for market share, aiming to undercut overseas rivals on price. But they admitted that their companies, as well as most of the area’s domestic robot makers, still had to import core components.