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High-end sensors boast bright prospects in the upgrading of China’s manufacturing industry

Author:Gong kong Date:2011-11-28 15:41:51
 By Omron China Over the past years, the rapid development in manufacturing industries of China’s neighboring developing countries such as India and Vietnam raises a huge challenge for China’s manufacturing industry, which has years of development history. Quality improvement and costs reduction have become new issues for China’s manufacturing industry to solve. As the assistor of manufacturing industry, “basic automation”, which aims at increasing the production output, is developing towards “upgrading automation” which concentrates on improving the quality; correspondingly, the automation products and their applications are also going through some subtle changes. OMRON, famous for its “sensing and control” technology, is a well-known brand in domestic industrial automation field. Its PLC and sensors are among the forefront of the Chinese market. Occupying the leading place in the general sensor market, Omron is vigorously developing the "application sensor" business in recent years (that is, high-end sensor with vision sensor as its representative), which exactly stems from the market background of “quality creating”. At the end of March 2008, gongkong ( www.gongkong.com) interviewed OMRON’s minister of sensor business operation--Mr. Takanori Ida to learn about the market prospects of high-end sensor in automatic upgrading and the strategy of OMRON’s application sensors. 
gongkong: In all the product lines of OMRON, sensors, particularly general purpose sensors perform the best in the market. Sensors have various types and a wide range of applications. Please give us a brief explanation of OMRON sensor’s product structure. Takanori:In fact, OMRON started its development from PLC. After automation has been developed to a certain extent, it began to sell sensor products. In Japan, manufacturing began from handicraft. With the progress of automation, machine production began to become popular. Initially, the production is not large, nor the number of machine running. At that time, low-priced limit switch, microswitch and some other contact detection products are used the most. With the development of manufacturing industry and automation technology, the production has been enlarged, and the speed becomes faster. Because the contact switch is easily damaged, non-contact photoelectric switch and proximity switch have emerged and are soon put into use. So far, these kinds of general-purpose sensors have become the mainstream of the market. Over the past five years, with the increase in China’s manufacturing output, the applications of photoelectric switch and proximity switch have been spread. As the production increases or even saturates, and competition becomes more and more intensified, the manufacturing industry begins to focus on quality. Application sensors which aim at enhancing the production quality, such as vision sensor, displacement sensor and laser sensor, begin to put into use, and that is how OMRON’s application sensor department where I work in develops. I believe high-quality manufacturing will become the direction of China’s manufacturing industry development. As China’s simple, inexpensive production lags behind India, Vietnam and other regions, high gradation has become a general trend in China’s manufacturing industry, so the demands for high-end automation products will rise, such as vision products. From contact limit switch and micro switch to non-contact photoelectric switch and proximity switch, then to vision sensor and displacement sensor, OMRON is one of world’s few suppliers which can provide a full range of high-, medium- and low-end sensor products. Therefore, OMRON is able to resolve any problems of customers independently. gongkong: What about the market performance of major Omron products in China? Takanori: In general-purpose product market, OMRON sensors are of high quality, so their prices are relatively higher than that of the local and Taiwan enterprises, and its market share ranks the first. For example, the photoelectric switch (especially the photoelectric switch with built-in amplifier) and proximity switch both occupy leading positions in the market. Taiwan and local suppliers also occupy large market shares, such as fiber optic sensor. The market share of a domestic company, which counterfeits OMRON products, even ranks the first. These kinds of products with limited service life are only used for simple testing, and the purchasers are most local manufacturing enterprises. Overseas enterprises account for 60% of China’s manufacturing industry, most of which come from Japan. These enterprises are OMRON’s main customer base, and all of them give approval to the merits of OMRON products. For example, in the automotive manufacturing industry, which has high requirements for temperature, oil pollution and other environmental tolerance, the advantages of OMRON products are fully displayed. However, the quality consciousness in local manufacturing enterprises is also increasing, and some local enterprises have begun to purchase OMRON products. Although the current market size of application sensor in China is still very small, it’s growing rapidly and healthily. Most companies are still at the investing stage, which makes OMRON quite optimistic about the future market. In Japan, the market of application sensors is even bigger than that of the general-purpose sensors. I believe that after more than 10 years of development, China’s sensor market will become just like that. I have been in China for two years, and I feel this market changes deeply. For example, the packaging of bottled beverage, the mobile phone shell, and even the product brochures are more exquisite than two years ago, and that shows the emphasis on product quality. All these changes are derived from the high precision and high intelligence of automation production, and cannot be separated from the application of high-end sensors. gongkong: Facing the growing Chinese market of application sensors, what’s your plan for development? Takanori: In Japan, from the initial manufacturing automation to the subsequent escalation of the manufacturing industry, OMRON grows synchronous with the automation of manufacturing industry. Toyota, Sony and Panasonic are typical customers. With these customers entering the Chinese market, many cases of OMRON can be copied horizontally. Instead of relying on agents like the general-purpose sensors, we have many full-time application sensor sales engineers in Japan, because these applications require more technical supports. In the future, we will hire more full-time engineers in China. Improving the quality and controlling labor costs are two major factors for Japan to develop machine vision business in the past, and China is facing or will soon face the same problem, so it’s the right time to promote application sensor market, particularly in automobile manufacturing and electronics manufacturing industries. The development of China is almost synchronous with that of the world. Therefore, quality improvement and cost reduction have become the core of competition. In food industry which has great market potential, more attention have been paid to food packaging and food safety, and it has been changing the idea of food manufacturing enterprises gradually. OMRON will promote the application of high-end sensors based on these representative enterprises in order to achieve synchronous development with the Chinese high-end manufacturing industries.