Manufacturing News

'Little giant' firm thrives in Southwest China's innovation hub

 The exhibition hall of CROBOTP, an industrial robot firm based in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, is flanked by two rows of blue machine arms displaying their capabilities -- polishing car wheels, welding car sheet metal, making a cup of coffee, and more.

Chengdu CRP Robot Technology Co Ltd (CROBOTP) was founded in 2012 by five people born after 1980 and it manufactures both essential parts and whole industrial robots. It initially focused on the niche market of welding robots, but the company now boasts an entire production chain of industrial robots and over 20 export markets, including Vietnam and Thailand.

It is listed as a "little giant" firm, which refers to novel and elite small and medium-sized enterprises that specialize in a niche market, boast cutting-edge technologies, and show great potential.

This locally-cultivated Chengdu company has seen its output value quadruple since embarking on independent research, development and manufacturing of complete robots four years ago, riding the wave created by the boom of the city and the broader Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle, as well as the region's efforts to become a national innovation hub.

"The economic vitality of the Sichuan and Chongqing region is proving adequate to support the development of industrial robots," said Zhang Mingde, an official at the Longtan Industrial Robot Industry Functional Zone of Chengdu, adding that the region provides an industrial robot application market with a value of more than 750 billion yuan ($104.5 billion).

Moreover, China has been the world's largest consumer of industrial robots for eight consecutive years, said Zhang, explaining why Chengdu has picked the industrial robot sector as a target for industrial innovation.

Meanwhile, Sichuan has been investing heavily in promoting scientific and technological innovation. In 2022, its investment in research and development amounted to 121.5 billion yuan, ranking eighth overall in the country, according to local government figures.

An industrial cluster comprising the entire supply chain of industrial robots is taking shape in Chengdu, enabling closer interaction between CROBOTP and its upstream as well as downstream business partners. The company, based in the Longtan Industrial Robot Industry Functional Zone, now has business links with about a dozen companies in the industrial park.

Moreover, a testing and evaluation center has been established in the park, which means that robot producers like CROBOTP no longer have to ship their products to Shanghai for testing, saving them a great deal of time.

Megmeet, a leading domestic electric automation enterprise and a listed company from Shenzhen, will soon move into the park, attracted to some degree by the fact that its mid-and-downstream enterprises, such as CROBOTP and another industrial robot producer ESTUN, have a business presence there, according to an official from the park.

"The name CROBOTP is derived from China Robot Pioneer," said Deng Shihai, deputy general manager of CROBOTP, highlighting their initial ambition when establishing the company.

Fortunately for him, he has witnessed not only the growth of his own company from a start-up to a "little giant," but also the transformation of China's robotics industry.

"Over the past decade, the landscape of China's robotics industry has drastically transformed. The key parts of industrial robots as well as many types of smart sensors can all be domestically manufactured," said Deng.

Independent manufacturing has expanded the scope of application of industrial robots at home and helped alleviate difficulties for businesses in seeking industrial upgrading, added Deng.

"With the advent of an aging society and the overall improvement of education in China, we will be able to hand out repetitive and dangerous jobs to robots, so that people can live more fulfilled lives," Deng projected.

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