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China’s manufacturing sector gathers speed on road to digital transformation

China is accelerating its digital transformation to further upgrade the country’s manufacturing industry and rachet up its pursuit of high-quality development, with “lighthouse factories” that represent some of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world leading the way through their implementation of smart manufacturing.

Inside one such factory, automatic-guided vehicles move freely around on the ground floor while industrial robots featuring visual-sensing capabilities assemble together machinery parts on production lines at the Beijing Rotary Drilling Rig Plant operated by leading Chinese heavy-equipment manufacturer Sany Heavy Industry Co., Ltd. The factory has been added to the World Economic Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network, which recognizes those factories demonstrating leadership in applying Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies.

Notably, the factory is the first heavy-industry enterprise globally to be added to the list. The factory began to leverage the power of industrial Internet technology in 2018. Now it is well-equipped with eight flexible work centers, 16 intelligent production lines and 375 production facilities connected to the Internet. Meanwhile, an industrial Internet platform deployed by the factory can collect data non-stop and provide optimal parameters for each production process.

The upgrades to the factory have served to provide an additional boost to its production efficiency and product quality. Moreover, the factory’s digital transformation has managed to increase the overall operation rate of its production equipment from 60 percent to about 90 percent in addition to slashing the production cycle by nearly 80 percent.

A microwave oven factory operated by Chinese home appliance giant Midea Group in Shunde district, Foshan city of south China’s Guangdong Province, is also a "lighthouse factory.” Similarly, the digitalization of the factory’s industrial chain has improved its overall internal efficiency by 28 percent and product quality indicators by 15 percent, while shortening order lead time by 56 percent.

Sheng Chaoxun, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research, said that “lighthouse factories” adopt a series of 4IR technologies at scale – ranging from automation, industrial Internet, cloud computing, big data to 5G technologies.

Noting that the term “lighthouse factory” is a byword for technology-intensive manufacturing, innovation, high labor productivity, high economic returns and green development, Sheng said that these factories are leading the way in smart manufacturing and digital transformation.


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