TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Taiwanese automation specialist We Technology Automation Co. Ltd. plans to build a factory in Ningbo, China, with an eye to quenching the strong cross-straits appetite for robots.
Mounting labor costs and concerns about capacity and quality control are propelling mainland interest in automation.
Scheduled to start production in the second half of 2015, the factory will have a production capacity of 200 robots per month, Wetec director Allen Lin said at the Taipei Plas trade show.
Cost and size of the factory have not been finalized, but Lin said it will employ about 120. Research and development will remain in Taiwan, Lin said.
Wetec plans to partner with other companies to serve China's strongest sectors. “In China, automotive is a very big industry,” Lin said.
Currently, Wetec's Taoyunan factory produces about 50 units a month, including robots, an in-mold labeling system, a PET post-mold cooling system and a 32-cavity cutlery-maker, Lin said. Control systems will also continue to be made in Taiwan.
The closely held company declined to discuss sales figures. However, Lin said that U.S. sales, negligible in 2012, now represent about 15 percent of Wetec's annual total.
Wetec has especially high stateside hopes for its in-mold labeling systems. Compared to Asia, where the technology is popular for consumer packaging, IML has scarcely penetrated the U.S. market, Lin said.
The Ningbo facility marks a dramatic re-entry into the Chinese market for the 28-year-old automation specialist, which by mutual agreement terminated a partnership with a Dongguan factory on Jan. 1. Wetec's Chinese partner wanted to start up its own brand, said marketing director Teresa Wang.
Wetec will also set up a Shanghai sales and service office in early 2015.
Last year, Wetec opened a European branch in Istanbul.