A continuously rising cost of labor in China is driving demand for automation equipment.
Riding that market, Taipei, Taiwan-based Alfa Automation Machinery Co. Ltd. reported that its 2007 sales were up 80 percent from a year ago.
Alfa is focused on the Chinese domestic market, with 50 sales offices across the country. More than 90 percent of its sales, about 1,000 units a year, are installed on mainland China.
``The exceptionally good growth in 2007 is, in part, a recovery from 2006, when processors hesitated to invest in machinery with concerns about resin price hikes,'' General Manager James Huang said at the Asian-Pacific International Plastics and Rubber Industry Exhibition in Shanghai.
Sales started going through the roof after the Chinese New Year, ``basically during March to June,'' he said.
Alfa's two factories on the Chinese mainland, in Dongguan and Suzhou, produce about 900 robots annually. Its headquarters factory, in Taipei, makes more than 100 units per year.
Just as in-mold labeling and insert molding were the highlights for the automation market in 2007, Alfa expects bottle preforms to become the next hit in the new year.
Huang said Alfa is ready for the trend. ``Coca-Cola, the largest user of plastic bottles in China, has approved our robotic arms,'' he said.
He claimed that Alfa robots are the only domestically made automation equipment recognized by Coca-Cola Co. in China.
Alfa said it is planning to extend its sales network further inland in China. The company also launched a business unit for computer numerically controlled machine stations last year.
So far Alfa has sold nearly 80 CNC stations and it plans to expand manufacturing space in Suzhou and Dongguan for CNC production, Huang said.