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ABB will invest $US150 million in the construction of the world's most advanced, automated and flexible robotics factory in Shanghai, China.

The cutting-edge factory where robots make robots builds on the $US2.4 billion ABB has invested in China since 1992.

The new Kangqiao manufacturing centre, near ABB’s expansive China robotics campus, will combine the company’s connected digital technologies, including ABB Ability solutions, state-of-the-art collaborative robotics and innovative artificial intelligence research to create the most sophisticated and environmentally sustainable “factory of the future.”

It is expected to begin operating by the end of 2020.

In 2017, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 138,000 units. Today, ABB employs approximately 5,000 people in Shanghai, and the company’s robotics businesses in China employ more than 2,000 engineers, technology experts and operational leaders in 20 locations across the country.

ABB has over 18,000 employees in total. The new Shanghai factory will also be an onsite R&D centre to help accelerate innovations in artificial intelligence.

ABB will also be able to combine this expanded portfolio of robotics into an almost limitless number of tailored solutions.

“The concept behind this factory is the same advice we give our customers every day: invest in automation solutions that provide flexibility and agility to grow in whichever direction the market goes,” according to Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics and Motion division.

The new factory will have an innovative, flexible floorplan based on interlinked islands of automation rather than fixed assembly lines. ABB logistics automation solutions will be used throughout the plant, including automatic guided vehicles that can autonomously follow robots as they move through production, supplying them with parts from localized stations.

This will allow production to adapt and scale efficiently to changes in China’s robot market without additional capacity expansions.

Per Vegard Nerseth, Managing Director of ABB’s Robotics business, said there is a shift away from looking at factory size and CAPEX investments as the way to meet future demand.

“The concept behind our new factory is to make the smartest and most flexible use of every metre of production. That comes from combining agile automation solutions with the great capabilities of our people,” he said.

To aid the move to mass customization in manufacturing and to ensure the highest levels of productivity and flexibility, the new Shanghai factory will make extensive use of ABB’s SafeMove2 software, which allows people and robots to work safely in close proximity.

In addition, ABB’s YuMi robots will allow close collaboration on many of the small parts assembly tasks needed to manufacture an ABB robot.

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