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一场正在中国进行的机器人革命

更新时间:2017-5-16 11:23:21 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Robot Revolution, This Time in China
一场正在中国进行的机器人革命

HANGZHOU, China — Even a decade ago, car manufacturing in China was still a fairly low-tech, labor-intensive endeavor. Thousands of workers in a factory, earning little more than $1 an hour, performed highly repetitive tasks, while just a handful of industrial robots dotted factory floors.

中国杭州——就在十年前,在中国制造汽车仍大体上是技术水平低下的劳动密集型工作。工厂里有数以千计的工人,他们干着高度重复的任务,每小时的收入不到一美元,车间里只有少数工业机器人。

No longer.

情况不再是这样。

At Ford’s newest car assembly plant in Hangzhou in east-central China, at least 650 robots, resembling huge, white-necked vultures, bob and weave to assemble the steel structures of utility vehicles and midsize sedans. Workers in blue uniforms and helmets still do some of the welding, but much of the process has been automated.

在中国东部城市杭州,福特汽车公司最新的汽车装配厂里至少有650台机器人,它们像是巨大的白颈秃鹰,在车间里上下左右快速移动,把多功能车和中型轿车的钢结构组装起来。仍有穿着蓝色工装、带着头盔的工人在做一些焊接工作,但工艺流程的大部分都已自动化。

The state-of-the-art factory exemplifies the vast transformation that has taken place across manufacturing in China. General Motors opened a similarly ultra-modern Cadillac factory in the eastern suburbs of Shanghai, as well as one in Wuhan. Other automakers are also pouring billions of dollars into China, now the world’s largest auto market.

这个最先进的工厂是中国制造业正在发生的巨大转型的代表。通用汽车公司在上海的东郊开工了一个同样超现代化的凯迪拉克工厂,还有一个在武汉。其他汽车制造商也在向中国注入数十亿美元的投资,中国现在是世界上最大的汽车市场。

Robots are critical to China’s economic ambitions, as Chinese companies look to move up the manufacturing chain. The Ford assembly plant is across the street from a robot-producing factory owned by Kuka, the big German manufacturer of industrial robots that a Chinese company bought last summer.

随着中国企业考虑提升它们在制造链上的地位,机器人对中国的经济野心至关重要。这家福特装配厂的街对面,就是德国大型工业机器人公司库卡拥有的一家机器人制造厂,一家中国公司已在去年夏天将其收购。

For carmakers, the reliance on robots is driven partly by cost. Blue-collar wages have soared because multinational companies have moved much of their production to China even as its labor force is rapidly changing. The combination of the one-child policy, which cut the birth rate through the 1980s and ’90s, and an eightfold increase in college enrollments has cut by more than half the number of people entering the work force each year who have less than a high school degree and may be willing to consider factory work.

对汽车制造商来说,依赖机器人的部分原因是成本驱动。正当中国的劳动力结构发生迅速变化时,跨国公司将大部分生产线转移到中国,这使蓝领工人的工资飙升。独生子女政策导致20世纪80年代和90年代的出生率下降,同时,大学入学率增长了八倍,这两个因素加在一起,让每年加入到劳动力大军的只有高中或以下学历、可能愿意考虑工厂工作的人数减少了一半还多。

Blue-collar wages are now $4 to $6 an hour in large, prosperous cities, though still far lower than in the United States.

在繁荣的大城市,蓝领工资现在是每小时4至6美元,虽然仍远低于美国。

Automation is also a competitive necessity. As carmakers jockey for customers’ attention, they have no choice but to deploy the latest technologies, even in research and development. The challenge is how to keep a competitive edge, while trying to prevent intellectual property from being copied quickly by Chinese rivals.

自动化也是竞争的必然。随着汽车制造商力求得到客户的关注,它们除了采用最新技术外别无选择,在研发上也是如此。它们面临的挑战是如何保持竞争优势,同时试图防止知识产权被中国对手很快抄袭。

“We’re basically building an R&D center here in China, and test track, that is on par with other parts of Ford,” in North America, Europe and Australia, said Mark Fields, the chief executive of Ford Motor. At the same time, he said, the company would protect its intellectual property.

福特汽车公司首席执行官马克·菲尔茨(Mark Fields)说,“我们基本上是在中国建立一个研发中心,这与福特在(北美、欧洲和澳大利亚)的其他部门的做法不相上下。”他说。同时,公司将保护其知识产权。

Robots perform tasks like welding in exactly the same way every time, improving quality control. But they require a lot of fine-tuning along the way.

机器人能以完全相同的方式完成每一次焊接工作,因此提高了质量控制。但它们在整个流程中需要很多的微调。

The painting process is also mostly automated. Elaborate spraying robots, their joints covered in many layers of plastic so that they do not become clogged with paint mist, snake back and forth across each car body. Workers still apply protective sealant to the vehicles’ interiors and underbodies, as Ford has been leery of depending entirely on robots for this step until it is sure they work well. More robots are scheduled to be installed in August, replacing manual labor for the protective sealant step as well.

给车身喷漆的流程也大都自动化了。精心设计的喷涂机器人,从每个车身的一边到另一边曲折往返,机器人的接合处盖着许多层塑料,让它们不被油漆雾堵塞。在汽车的内部和底部涂保护密封剂的工作仍需要工人来做,因为在确保机器人能做好这项工作之前,福特对完全依赖它们来完成这个步骤仍不放心。按计划将在8月份安装更多的机器人,取代涂保护密封胶这个步骤的人工劳动。

Automation doesn’t elicit the same fear of job losses in China as in the United States. With car demand in China growing quickly, ever more factories and workers are needed to produce more cars. The Ford factory here in Hangzhou may have 650 robots, but it also has 2,800 workers. Other automakers continue to hunt for skilled workers to fill vacancies in their factories.

自动化在中国并不引起像在美国那样的失业担心。随着中国汽车需求的快速增长,需要有更多的工厂和工人生产更多的汽车。福特在杭州的工厂可能有650台机器人,但也有2800名工人。其他汽车制造商也在为填补工厂的空缺继续寻找技术工人。

“Robots aren’t the threat,” said Paul Buetow, the director of China manufacturing at General Motors. “The threat is not being able to run your business with products that people want to buy.”

“机器人不是威胁,”通用汽车中国制造部门主管保罗·布托(Paul Buetow)说。“不能让你的企业生产人们想购买的产品的经营方式才是威胁。”

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