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China Is Building a Robot Army of Model Workers

Inside a large, windowless room in an electronics factory in south Shanghai, about 15 workers are eyeing a small robot arm with frustration. Near the end of the production line where optical networking equipment is being packed into boxes for shipping, the robot sits motionless. “The system is down,” explains Nie Juan, a woman in her early 20s who is responsible for quality control. Her team has been testing the robot for the past week. The machine is meant to place stickers on the boxes containing new routers, and it seemed to have mastered the task quite nicely. But then it suddenly stopped working. “The robot does save labor,” Nie tells me, her brow furrowed, “but it is difficult to maintain.” The hitch reflects a much bigger technological challenge facing China’s manufacturers today. Wages in Shanghai have more than doubled in the past seven years, and the company that owns the factory, Cambridge Industries Group, …

June 4, 2016 12:19 am

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