How can wages of less than 1/20 of American workers afford close to 1/2 of the cost of living in the United States? This serious inequality in distribution makes wage increases for Chinese workers an inevitable trend. By 2014, the gap between China’s labor costs and the United States was almost negligible. For every dollar spent in labor costs in the United States, it would cost about 96 cents in China. This does not take into account logistics costs.
Many people attribute the decline in the competitiveness of Chinese manufacturing to higher labor costs. If this logic is correct, countries with extremely high labor costs such as Germany and Switzerland should not have large-scale industrial production long ago. The labor costs of these two countries are 20% to 30% higher than that of the United States. The top of the manufacturing pyramid is easy to do.
The policy is warm. Since the beginning of this year, the State Council, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and relevant departments have continuously increased policy support for “Made in China 2025”, and have successively issued a series of normative and guiding documents to clarify the direction for the development of China’s smart manufacturing, including smart manufacturing demonstration projects. It also provides a useful reference for China’s manufacturing industry. Below, let’s review the policy documents related to smart manufacturing since 2016.
In early April, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Development and Reform Commission, and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued the “Robot Industry Development Plan (2016-2020)”. The “Plan” proposed five main tasks and six policy measures. Among them, in the five main tasks, vigorously develop the key components of robots, and comprehensively break through the requirements of the five key components of high-precision reducers, high-performance servo motors and drives, high-performance controllers, sensors and end effectors. The weak link in the development of China’s industrial robot industry.
On April 6, the State Council’s executive meeting reviewed and approved the “Plan for Standardization and Quality Improvement of Equipment Manufacturing Industry”. The main goal of the “Plan” is: By 2020, the standard system for industrial foundation, intelligent manufacturing, and green manufacturing will be basically complete, and quality and safety will be basically complete. Accelerate the integration of standards and international standards, and strive to achieve more than 90% of the conversion rate of international standards in key areas.
It was learned from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on April 11 that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “Smart Manufacturing Pilot Demonstration 2016 Special Action Implementation Plan” to implement discrete smart manufacturing and process smart manufacturing in key regions and industries with conditions and foundations. , Pilot demonstration of 5 new models of network collaborative manufacturing, large-scale personalized customization, and remote operation and maintenance services.
In May, the State Council issued the “Guiding Opinions on Deepening the Integrated Development of Manufacturing and the Internet.” The “Opinions” mentioned: the construction of smart manufacturing units, smart production lines, smart workshops, and smart factories for key industries, cultivate a group of system solution suppliers, organize and carry out industry application pilot demonstrations, and strive to form a group of effective integration of industry development solution.
On June 3, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “2016 Smart Manufacturing Comprehensive Standardization and New Model Application Project Publicity”, and 144 projects are planned to be selected for publicity. Among the 144 projects, current hot spots such as smart factories, industrial Internet, robots, reducers, CNC machine and other typical significance projects are all listed.
On June 17th, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the 2016 smart manufacturing pilot demonstration projects. The list of projects showed that 63 projects were selected. Prior to this, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also issued the “Intelligent Manufacturing Pilot Demonstration 2016 Special Action Implementation Plan.”
On July 1, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology publicized the list of the first batch of China-Germany smart cnc manufacturing cooperation pilot demonstration projects in 2016, and a total of 15 cooperation projects were selected. In terms of the specific selection criteria, the selected projects need to highlight the leading and leading role of China’s industrial transformation and upgrading on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win results between China and Germany.
Manufacturing industry accelerates automation It is extremely scary to think about it. With the help of high degree of automation and business model changes, European manufacturing will not only continue to control the production of high-end precision technology, but may also regain part of the labor-intensive industries. The labor price itself is no longer a decisive factor for the future manufacturing industry.
Some time ago, I chatted with a Chinese entrepreneur. He bought a high-precision machinery company in Germany and built a factory in China with the help of German technology and technicians. Speaking privately about the future of China’s manufacturing industry, his view is that many factories in China have a very high degree of automation and have even realized the concept of the Internet of Things in “Industry 4.0”. But he asked, if the quality is not good starting from the machine tool, even if a high degree of interconnection is realized, can the quality and performance of the output product be good? To put it bluntly, the “industrial mother machine” is not good, so what about downstream? He said, In the past, Chinese manufacturing emphasized “short, flat and fast”. Chinese factories bought cheap machine tools made in China, invested in recycling equipment in 5 years and made money, and the equipment was scrapped and renewed directly. However, since the beginning of the past few years, more and more Chinese manufacturers are willing to buy German machine tools. Although the price may be several times more expensive, the product quality has been improved, and it is more economical to calculate the unit cost investment from the service life of the machine tool.
When successful European manufacturing companies fight back against manufacturing in China, they mainly rely on product quality and technological innovation, as well as a mentality that is not impetuous. The shortcomings of this manufacturing industry are reflected at the top of the pyramid.
The continuous innovation of manufacturing business models, the high degree of automation of industrial production, and high value-added services have reduced the dependence of various types of manufacturing companies on cheap labor. Between 1995 and 2005, Clarks, a 190-year-old British shoe-making brand, closed all its factories in the UK and moved all production bases overseas to use third-party factories. At that time, the company claimed that moving its production base to the Far East was the only way to survive. Ten or twenty years ago, there were too many such examples. The Adidas brand, founded by the Germans in 1949, closed its last factory in Germany in 1993 and completely switched to manufacturing in Asia, especially China and Vietnam.
Not 30 years ago, technological advancements in automation and robotics have allowed Adidas to move its product lines back to Germany and return to “Made in Germany.”
Adidas is building a 4600 square meter “robot factory” in Germany, named “Speedfactory” (Speedfactory), their technical partner is also a German technology company. This factory has only 160 workers, but next year it can achieve an annual production capacity of 1 million pairs of shoes. They will soon build a second robot factory in the United States, and will continue to build similar factories across Europe. The price of Adidas sports shoes produced by the German robot shoe factory will not be higher than that of the Chinese factory. Indeed, Adidas has an annual production capacity of 300 million pairs of shoes in Asia. In comparison, the current output of German factories is simply not enough to replace the 1 million workers in Asia. However, it is only “temporarily” will not replace it.
Adidas’s old rival Nike also took a similar migration path. Twenty or thirty years ago, Nike shoe factories were first built in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, then moved to China, and soon became Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Now in Indonesia alone, Nike has more than 100,000 workers. The factories are located in impoverished and remote areas. These workers work six days a week with only about 21 US dollars in salary.
Even if the labor is so cheap, Nike is trying to be a robot factory. Because simply fighting labor costs, there is no bottom line at all.
The robot substitution market is huge. In the past few years, with the breakthrough of voice, image recognition, artificial intelligence technology, and the development of new materials, the robot field has made great progress, and the scope of robots has also been greatly expanded. Industrial robots started to be used in automobile manufacturing, and now a variety of advanced automated robots have been used on a large scale in the production process of various industries, such as 3C manufacturing, medical and health, retail, military and other fields. Many product forms of service robots and virtual robots have also emerged, such as preschool education robots and sweeping robots. Many of these service robots add artificial intelligence to the original basic products. For example, the sweeping robot adds an autonomous path avoidance algorithm to the principle of a vacuum cleaner, making related products intelligent and interactive. At the same time, virtual robots corresponding to entities have also begun to emerge, such as AlphaGo, which became popular some time ago, various chat robots, such as Siri and GoogleNow, which can provide real-time news or weather information to help users handle daily tasks.
What we can foresee in the future is that with the continuous development of artificial intelligence, we will have more meaningful exchanges with robots, and most importantly, there will be more automated integration between robot systems. For example, if you want to buy a new pair of sneakers online, after the virtual chat robot understands your shoe needs, the robot will communicate with other systems (such as Amazon) to help you order sneakers. The Amazon assembly line robot will automatically pack and ship the sneakers soon after receiving the instruction, and another transportation robot will help you deliver the sneakers to the door, all of which may be completed within an hour or two. This will greatly improve the efficiency of the entire system.
It is precisely to see this broad prospect, and in order to meet the increasing business needs of various industries, governments and enterprises of various countries have increased their research and investment in robots. According to a new report released by Technavio, a well-known technology survey consultant company, the compound annual growth rate of R&D investment in the global robotics industry will exceed 17% from 2016 to 2020. Major technology companies have also carried out large-scale mergers and acquisitions and investment arrangements in the robotics field. For example, in 2012, Amazon acquired the robotics startup KivaSystems for $775 million; in 2013, Google acquired 7 robots in one year. Start-up companies, including the famous Boston Dynamics and Redwood Robotics. In 2015, there were 15 large-scale mergers and acquisitions in the entire robotics industry, and the transaction volume reached a record high. In 2016, the domestic Midea Group acquired KukaAG, a German listed robot manufacturer.
Returning to the domestic industrial and service robot market, the development of the domestic robot industry has been strongly supported by national policies in recent years, and has also been recognized at the level of corporate customers. China has become the largest market for industrial robots, but there is still huge room for future development. Relevant data show that the current density of China’s 3C manufacturing industry is only 11 units per 10,000 people. Compared with developed countries in Europe and the United States, there is still room for improvement several times in the future. However, as far as the industrial chain is concerned, the upstream of the robot industry chain includes servo motors, reducers, controllers (the three together account for about 75% of the cost of the robot) and other components. The midstream is the robot body, and the downstream is the system integration. The foreign robot industry has concentrated on R&D and breakthroughs in the upper and middle reaches. At present, domestic robot companies are mostly concentrated in the downstream system integration link, which corresponds to the domestic service robot boom in the past two years. Due to the high technical threshold of upstream core components, more than 80% of the domestic ones are currently imported, and the cost of procurement is more than three to five times higher than that of foreign companies for their own use. However, as domestic robot manufacturers independently develop and produce controllers, servo systems and reducers Gradually realized, it is expected that the import substitution speed of core parts and components will accelerate in the future, and the import substitution space will be huge. And with the continuous investment and application of large companies such as Midea in the field of industrial robots, it will also produce a good demonstration effect on the application side.
In this regard, Rapoo Technology Deng Qiuwei has a deep understanding, “All the main parts of Rapoo’s system integration business use German and Japanese equipment. Domestic robots have been debugging, but the market acceptance is not satisfactory. One is because of 3C product cnc machining in china. Manufacturing requires higher precision and reliability of robots, and customers have higher trust in foreign equipment; second, in the design of a robot production line, the cost of robot hardware is only about a quarter. With the continuous price reduction of imported equipment, There is no obvious price advantage for purchasing domestic equipment.” At present, the process of applying robots in the 3C manufacturing industry mainly focuses on tightening, plug-in, polishing, welding, handling, testing, packaging and other links. The mobile phone assembly link with the largest number of workers is still Mainly manual operation. One of the current constraints of mobile phone manufacturing automation is whether the requirements for automated production are taken into account in the design of mobile phone products, such as whether materials such as cameras are standard parts, so as to facilitate the convenient and continuous picking and placing of robots during production line operations. He Wanmin believes that in the process of applying robots in the 3C field, product manufacturers, suppliers and robot manufacturers need to form an ecological chain, and jointly make adjustments in the production process to meet the needs of automation.
In view of the current technological gap between domestic and foreign robot products, it is expected that in the future, domestic robot manufacturers will still focus on handling and polishing applications with lower requirements for precision and reliability in the 3C manufacturing industry, while foreign robot manufacturers It may break through the product assembly and other links.
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