By Wang Ying

Chinese manufacturers of service robots are receiving orders from around the world, according to a report by Nikkei Asia.

The Shenzhen-based tech firm Pudu Robotics, founded in 2016, reported a revenue of $100 million in 2022.

KEENON Robotics Co., Ltd., headquartered in Shanghai, is also preparing to accelerate its overseas expansion. By the end of 2022, the company had sold approximately 35,000 robots, with nearly 10,000 of them sold to destinations outside China.

In recent years, the Chinese robotics industry has experienced rapid development, with the service robot sector maintaining a fast growth rate.

Statistics show that in 2022, the operating revenue of the Chinese robotics industry exceeded 170 billion yuan ($23.94 billion), making China the world’s largest robotics market.

According to data released by the International Federation of Robotics, the Chinese robotics industry maintained steady growth in the first half of 2023. A total of 3.53 million sets of service robots were produced, representing a year-on-year growth of 9.6 percent.

In recent years, China has introduced a series of policies to support the development of the robotics industry. According to an outline for the development of the robotics industry during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), China plans to build itself into a global source of innovation in robotics technology, a hub for high-end manufacturing, and a leading center for integrated robotics applications by 2025.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Education, and 15 other departments jointly issued an action plan on “robotics+” that aims to expand the use of robotics. The action plan is expected to further implement the goal of doubling China’s manufacturing robot density by 2025 compared with that of 2020, and significantly increasing the use of service and special robots.

Service robots are an important category of robot products. They can replace human labor in performing certain daily tasks, improve life quality for consumers and reduce manual labor input. Based on specific needs, service robots can operate autonomously with minimal human intervention or be remotely controlled by human operators.

Service robots can provide assistance in various fields and scenarios, including but not limited to the food and beverage industry, healthcare, hospitality, building services, and logistics. They can perform tasks such as greeting guests, meal deliveries, express parcel deliveries, cleaning, and providing medical assistance.

Jiao Ziyuan, a researcher at the Beijing Institute for General Artificial Intelligence, told People’s Daily that currently, service robots developed and produced in China are mainly used for food delivery, cleaning, and medical assistance. The overall domestic market is showing a positive trend, with a high rate of localization and an increasingly advanced level of technology.

This is attributed to the significant breakthroughs made by China in cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence speech recognition and image recognition, Jiao explained.

Chinese manufacturers of service robots are accelerating their expansion into the global market. According to a report released by International Data Corporation in July this year, “going global” became an important source of growth for most manufacturers in 2022 because of the low market penetration, high labor costs, and higher profit margins for products sold overseas.

The report said the income made overseas by many manufacturers was on par with or even significantly higher than their revenue in the Chinese market. In 2022, Chinese manufacturers of commercial service robot generated nearly $200 million in revenue from overseas markets, representing a year-on-year growth of 103.4 percent.

Jiao said that China’s service robots are leading in technology, price, and service. In terms of technology, China applies advanced artificial intelligence technology to service robots, resulting in higher stability and intelligence. In terms of price, China has a relatively complete industrial chain related to robots, which leads to higher cost-effectiveness. In terms of service, Chinese manufacturers can provide customized services based on different needs.

However, Chinese manufacturers of service robots, facing increasingly fierce competition in the international market, still need to continuously improve their technological and innovative capabilities, pay attention to cultural differences between China and foreign countries, comply with regulations and standards in various countries, provide excellent after-sales service and technical support, continuously optimize the industrial chain, and maintain their advantage in cost control.

Jiao pointed out that in the future, humanoid robots will be one of the mainstream directions for the development of service robots. Humanoid robots can better adapt to real-life scenarios, enabling service robots to transition from specialized to general-purpose. For manufacturers, strengthening the technological research and development of humanoid robots and reducing costs may be an important direction in the future.


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