(Oct 23): In an 8,500 sq ft facility at Alexandra Technopark, mobile robots whizz around the room, pushing carts and shelves as their arms swivel from one side to another, to the wonderment of a group of journalists looking on. The demonstration, held at the launch of Omron Asia Pacific’s new Automation Centre (ATC), is meant to offer a glimpse at the future of manufacturing: one in which production lines do not need conveyer belts and customised products can be made as quickly as generic goods.

The ATC is part of a $13.5 million investment by the Japanese industrial automation firm to boost Singapore’s robotics sector as it bets on the republic’s emerging as a key hub for robotics in the region. Already, Singapore has the second-highest concentration of robots in the world — with 398 robots for every 10,000 employees.

South Korea takes first place, with 531 robots per 10,000 employees, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Japan and Germany are in third and fourth place, respectively, with 305 and 301 robots for every 10,000 employees. IFR expects the robotics sector to grow at least 14% a year to 2019. The fastest growth rate will be in Asia-Pacific, at 18% a year, and Omron plans to be a part of that.

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