Collaborative solutions featuring robotics are set to help manufacturers stay competitive in this period of global economic uncertainty, and China’s scale and policy advantages will put the nation among the forefront of automation, according to a seasoned industry expert interviewed by China Daily.

“China is so large that it has an almost self-sustaining character to it,” said Jurgen von Hollen, president of Universal Robots, a company which specializes in manufacturing collaborative robots.

“If I compare China to all regions, it has the most aggressive and open stance toward supporting and driving automation technology,” he said.

He made the remarks as the Danish firm launched a new cobot solution in China, featuring heavy load capabilities that make the machines ideal for automating tasks like heavy-duty material handling, heavy-part handling, and machine tending.

“This launch significantly expands the versatility of our product portfolio and gives manufacturers even more ways to improve performance, overcome labor challenges and grow their business,” he said.

Cobots are essentially robots that work alongside people. Different from large industrial robots, cobots are much smaller and more easily deployed in a wide range of manufacturing industries, the report said.

Von Hollen said China is among the top five largest markets globally, and one of the fastest-growing markets.

“The key ingredients for success for any companies to invest are: stability, so you can plan and rely on them for the long term. Second is a big enough market. Third, a general environment that is open to businesses. All three ingredients are here for China,” he said.

According to Robotics Business Review online, led by Universal Robots, Rethink Robots and FANUC, the cobot market could be worth a staggering US$3.1 billion by 2020.

This is driven in no small part by declining prices for these systems, which have fallen by a steady 3-5% per year. With an average price in 2015 of about US$28,000, the expected price of a cobot will drop to a surprising average of roughly U$17,500 by 2025.

Whether handling fragile samples in a laboratory, small items for packaging, or assuming the truly heavy lifting on assembly lines, the future of cobots will see humans working with these systems, rather than being replaced by them, a fact sure to ease the fears of human employees, the report said.

Forbes recently reported that cobots are easy to program, fast to set up, flexible and safe.

No programming expertise is needed to set up and operate cobots quickly. Often, they are virtually plug and play or easily programmed through a tablet or by adjusting the cobot’s arms.

Unlike traditional industrial robots that take weeks to be operational, the setup time for most cobots is just a few hours.

Traditional robots are often bolted to the floor and deployed for a particular application. Cobots are flexible and mobile, don’t require a lot of space and can be redeployed very easily to support new and multiple applications.

And cobots don’t need safety cages to keep your human workforce safe on the job when they are working. They can sense obstacles and adjust their speed or reverse to avoid crashing into humans (or other obstacles).