ABB to Build Advanced Robotics Factory in Shanghai

The company will combine connected digital technologies, collaborative robotics and AI research to create “Factory of the Future.”

Global technology company ABB has recently announced a $150 million USD investment in Shanghai, China to build “the world’s most advanced, automated and flexible robotics factory – a cutting-edge center where robots make robots.”’

The new Kangqiao manufacturing center, near ABB’s existing China robotics campus, will combine the company’s connected digital technologies, including ABB Ability solutions, collaborative robotics and artificial intelligence research to create an environmentally sustainable “factory of the future.” It is expected to begin operating by the end of 2020.

The announcement marks a milestone for ABB in the competition to be the top robotics manufacturer in China, the world’s largest robotics market. 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. The company has invested more than US$2.4 billion in China since 1992, with over 18,000 employees in total.

ABB and the Shanghai municipal government also signed a strategic cooperation agreement focused on supporting industry, energy, transport and infrastructure in the region, and to support the “Made in Shanghai” manufacturing initiative. The agreement was signed by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong and ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer.

“China’s commitment to transform its manufacturing is a torchlight for the rest of the world,” said Spiesshofer. “Its strategic embrace of the latest technologies for artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cloud-based computing present a playbook for every country that wishes to have a globally competitive manufacturing base. Shanghai has become a vital center for advanced technology leadership – for ABB and the world. We look forward to working with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, other community leaders and our customers as we launch this major expansion of ABB’s substantial presence in China, building on our journey to become China’s leading Robotics manufacturer that started in Shanghai over two decades ago.”

Advanced Technology to be Invested in New Factory


ABB Safe2Move system is designed to protect workers in proximity to robots.

The new Shanghai factory will feature a number of machine learning, digital and collaborative solutions and an onsite R&D center will focus on AI research. Using a global design approach that ABB announced earlier this year, the factory aims to increase both the breadth (type of robots) and depth (variants of each type) of robots that can be made onsite.

The entire Shanghai factory will be modeled as a digital twin, which will provide dashboards to help management, engineers, operators and maintenance personnel to make decisions. This includes gathering and analyzing intelligence through ABB Ability Connected Services on the health and performance of ABB robots in the factory to ensure early identification of potential anomalies. In addition to avoiding costly downtime, digital twin technology can improve performance, reliability and energy usage.

Designed to Make Better Use of Manufacturing Space


ABB YuMi Cobot. 

According to the company, 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’s a large 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 meter of production. That comes from combining agile automation solutions with the great capabilities of our people.”

The new Shanghai factory will become a key part of ABB’s global robotics supply system, together with the company’s factory in Västerås, Sweden and its factory in Auburn Hills, Michigan, where ABB remains the only global robot supplier with a US manufacturing footprint.

To learn more about the factory, watch the video.