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Robots Replace Workers

Demand for robots is set to rise. In China, for example, the shift toward more automated factories has already started.

China's industrial sector has begun spending heavily on machines to increase productivity and improve quality to compete globally. From car plants to microchip manufacturers, factory floor automation is growing at a fast pace. Chinese car maker Great Wall Motors has Swiss robots and other machinery to weld together car frames, while Apple supplierFoxconn plans to put a million robots in its factories in China by 2014.

Companies set to gain from this trend include makers of sensors, frequency converters, conveyor belts, and pneumatic systems, all used in factory production lines. Japan's Mitsubishi Electric, which supplies such devices to China, expects sales to rise from $762 million in 2011 to $1.3 billion by 2015. Other major suppliers to China like Switzerland's ABB and Japan's Fanuc — two of the world's biggest robot makers — are also expected to see a boost in sales.

China's manufacturing investment in 2011 hit $1.6 trillion, nearly 32 percent higher than 2010, with much of the spending resulting in more modern and automated factories.

Pictured left: Robots weld bodies of a vehicle at Central Motor's Miyagi plant in Japan.

Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images