There have been a lot of sick days in China recently thanks to the coronavirus.
As some 100 million workers return to factory work there this week, business owners are looking into robotics and automation.
Robots don’t get sick so they can prevent a recurrence of future plant shutdowns.
The coronavirus has been a wake-up call for supply chain managers and risk managers.
Some manufacturers are assembling crisis teams to deal with product shortages.
Identifying ways to keep factory production going in those Chinese factories that have re-opened may include the use of more robots and other automation that substitute for humans.
China has been embracing automation and robotics for the last several years.
It is the fastest-growing market worldwide.
It has more than 800 robot makers, including major players SIASUN and DJI Innovations.
Development of robotics is part of an ambitious Made in China 2025 master plan to upgrade the nation’s manufacturing technologies.
China is on track to account for 45 percent of all industrial robot shipments by 2021, up from 39 per cent in 2019.
The virus outbreak has put a renewed urgency behind increasing automation and robots.
US companies with operations in China have been hit hard by the virus.
Tesla’s new multi-billion-dollar plant in Shanghai resumed operation February 10 after a near two-week shutdown.
Apple supplier Foxconn has been moving to automate 30 percent of its one million factory jobs in China by 2020, which could prove fortuitous.
Apple said it doesn’t expect to hit its quarterly revenue targets because its iPhone manufacturing partners are located near the outbreak center in Hubei province and it has taken longer than expected to get operations back up and running.
Multinational automotive manufacturers in China, the world’s largest car market, are severely impacted.
Wuhan is a base for auto plants including General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Peugeot and Renault.
With employees staying home and supply chain disrupted, getting back into production has been a struggle at many of these plants.
While automation might seem like the silver bullet, there is also the controversy about robots displacing blue collar jobs.
There is a very real concern is about widespread unemployment and subsequent social unrest that would result in an economic slowdown in China.