Japanese makers actively automating production in China as labor shortage worsens

Fan Jen-chi, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Japanese electronics components manufacturers with plants in China's coastal provinces are gradually changing their investment strategies there, actively incorporating production automation technology into the plants to counter worsening labor shortages in China, Japan's Dampa Digital has reported.

The report said that China in 2022 officially entered a stage of net population decline, signifying a decreasing supply of young workers there, which, coupled with the urbanization and industrialization actively proceeding into inland areas, is further compounding labor shortfalls in the coastal provinces. This has driven Japanese investors in China to step up automated production deployments there.

Among them, Iriso Electronics' plant in Shanghai, dedicated to manufacturing car-use digital connectors, has installed 64 robots and four automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and will purchase four more AGVs in the near future. Its total workforce now reaches only 16% of a previous peak of 3,900 people, but the plant's current revenues are higher than the past, according to Yao Haiping, general manager of the plant.

Otax's DIP switch plant in Shenzhen has cut its workforce from 2,500 to 800 after incorporating automation systems into production lines. Company president Shuke Tomita said the China plant's revenues have hit new highs year by year, with product quality also improving constantly. He disclosed the company will promote the systems to its other plants worldwide.

Nichicon in 2021 kicked off automated production of EV-use thin film capacitors at its Suqian plant in China's Jiangsu province, and satisfactory production performance has encouraged the company to set up a new plant there, which is slated to start commercial production in the autumn of 2023.

Meiko Electronics' PCB factories in Guangzhou and Wuhan not only use automation to save labor and improve quality, but also promote energy conservation and environmental protection by initiating experiments in copper and palladium recycling operations.

Nippon Chemi-Con's Wuxi plant, SMK's Dongguan plant, and Sumida's Panyu plant, all dedicated to developing and manufacturing software and hardware for automated operation systems, have successfully applied IoT and AI technologies to their R&D and production lines. They will transfer related technologies to other overseas plants, turning the labor shortage crisis into an opportunity for manufacturing transformation.