Global Manufacturing & ASEAN? Mexico, US, UK are rising stars! & Japan pin hope on Robotics

Time To Redraw The World Map in Global Manufacturing Competitiveness: Mexico, US, UK Are Rising Stars, as Japan investing in robotic workforce to regain status as world’s top manufacturer. And where does that leave ASEAN?

The following is from (Source)

Japan investing in robotic workforce to regain status as world’s top manufacturer

Once the undisputed world leader in robotic technology, Japan’s supremacy in the field is being challenged by rival robot producing countries.

Now the government is pouring money into regaining that place to ensure the robot age starts in Japan.

Pepper is the world’s first emo robot and represents a huge leap in artificial intelligence. It can read facial expressions, voice tones and body language and then respond.

At Omotosando, an upmarket shopping district in Tokyo, Pepper works in a mobile phone store doing market research.

Pepper told one woman: “You’re very lovely – do people say that to you often? Now it’s your turn to compliment me! What do you think of my face?”

And then later joked with a male customer: “So you want to become Pepper? Well you’ve got shave off your chest hair and smear white paint over your body and then strip off your clothes.”

Pepper is designed to be cute. He stands about 120 centimetres tall and has big puppy dog eyes.

On sale for $2,000 from next year, Pepper is sure to be big seller. As a household robot, Pepper will do the washing, the vacuuming and all the mundane chores with a smile.

But Japanese industry and government have serious plans for Pepper and robots like him. They want to build 30 million Peppers to create a workforce that can make Japan the world’s number one manufacturer again.

On the outskirts of Tokyo is the factory of the future, Nextage. Robots control the floor making ATMs and vending machines.

Nextage manufacturing robot: At the Nextage factory on the outskirts of Tokyo, robots control the floor making ATM and vending machines. They do the work of three humans, 24 hours a day. (ABC News)

They do the work of three human beings 24 hours a day, they do not take sick days or suffer fatigue. A perfect labourer perhaps?

The company introduced the robots so they could have a cheap, reliable source of labour in Japan and cut the costs of overseas operations.

Nextage manager Toshifumi Tsuji said productivity had increased five-fold since the factory introduced the robots two years ago.

“The companies that want to use these kinds of robots are increasing rapidly, so these humanoid robots will keep evolving, become faster and even more efficient,” Mr Tsuji said.

The human workers at Nextage look like the robots’ assistants. They run around to ensure the robots have everything they need for proper functioning.

Part-time worker Kimie Aoki said she saw the robots as colleagues and was not threatened by their presence.

“The robots have cameras and they can find defects which are hard to find for humans. I think they are helping us make better products,” she said.

Will robots be a hindrance or a help?

Theorists said robots like Pepper could mean an end to menial labour and usher in a new age of creative work, while others believe they will lead to unemployment and more inequality. It is a debate keeping academics and analysts busy.

Robot suit helps people lift heavy weights

The Japanese government sees robots as not only helping resolve its labour shortages in industry, but also in aged care.

There are 31 million people over 65 years old in Japan. That number will grow rapidly, as will the demands of looking after the elderly.

The robot suit, developed by Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi from Tokyo University, has already helped elderly Japanese live independent and self-sufficient lives.

The device is strapped around the back and under the arms to make lifting heavy weights easy for humans.

“It will help elderly [people] work for longer and help them in the home so it will have a significant economic impact,” Professor Kobayashi said.

Japan wants to increase the use of robots twenty-fold in just five years, with hopes the next industrial revolution – after the internet age – will arrive first in their country.

The following is from Manufacturing Leadership (Source)

Time To Redraw The World Map in Global Manufacturing Competitiveness: Mexico, US, UK Are Rising Stars

Posted By Paul Tate, August 26

If you still think the world is split into traditional high-cost production locations in the developed economies of the West, and low-cost locations in the emerging economies of the East, it may be time to think again.

According to a new report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which analyses the cost structures of 25 leading export economies around the world in terms of wages, productivity, energy prices and exchange rates, many of these traditional manufacturing industry assumptions are now obsolete.

“The new map increasingly resembles a quilt-work pattern of low-cost economies, high-cost economies, and many that fall in between, spanning all regions,” says the BCG report.

For example, Mexico is now a cheaper location than China to make things on a unit-cost basis; the U.K. is now the most cost-effective place to manufacture in Europe; Brazil has become one of the world’s most expensive production locations; while Russia and other East European economies are now almost on a par with the U.S. in terms of manufacturing costs.


‘These dramatic changes in relative costs could drive a large shift in the global economy as companies are prompted to reassess their manufacturing footprints,” suggests the report. “One implication is that global manufacturing could become increasingly regional. Because relatively low-cost manufacturing centers exist in all regions of the world, more goods consumed in Asia, Europe, and the Americas will be made closer to home.”

The good news for the U.S. is that, “Cost structures in Mexico and the U.S. improved more than in all of the other 25 largest exporting economies,” concludes BCG. “Because of low wage growth, sustained productivity gains, stable exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage, these two nations are the current rising stars of global manufacturing.”

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