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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 36, Issue 3
With this issue, we take a temporary break from our traditional technological themes to highlight the robotic research and applications that are going on in China. And, it is very appropriate that many of the papers we include are based on those presented at the 1st International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications that took place in October 2008 in Wuhan, China.
While many of the world’s robotic communities are finding and predicting a slow-down in the take-up of industrial and service robots, China is showing strong and steady increases in a very broad range of robot applications (IFR “World Robotics 2008”).
Writing this, as I am on the day of the Inauguration of the 44th President of the USA, there is in my view, a feeling in the air that after being knocked down by the current global financial crisis, that we now have both the opportunity and the obligation to pick ourselves up and sort out the mess.
Regular readers of my editorials will already know that I am not a great fan of globalization. I firmly believe that all countries need to advance and maintain their own manufacturing capabilities and not throw in the towel because labour rates elsewhere make it hard to compete.
Many of the world’s problems have been caused by us giving value to things that have no value. The sub-prime housing market is an obvious case in point. However, this is an easy target and something that we came blame other people for. Much closer to home and much harder to avoid, is the recognition that we (at least here in Europe) have been guilty of placing value on cheap goods and of having limited regard for our manufacturing industries.
Manufacturing gives us the ability to create the products that we need for our everyday lives. These products are real, they have physical mass and they do not vanish to nothing in the face of a loss in confidence. In contrast, the service industries have a value that is as ephemeral as their stock exchange listings.
I consider it to be excellent that China is taking such an active interest in the development of its manufacturing industries. Far from this being a threat to other countries, I would hope that we can all learn from each other, and work to enhance the quality of life for everyone on the planet.
Our manufacturing future depends on the education of those still at school, and it is there that I consider we should now be giving our utmost encouragement and keenest direction. If children are educated to believe that success is a matter of being famous for 15 min then there is little hope for us all. But if we can instill in them the romance of engineering and the extreme satisfaction that can be gained from the solution of a technical problem and the production of quality products, then at least we can light a candle at the end of the tunnel.