BFA looks to a tech-powered digital transformation
The annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) was held in the town of Boao in Hainan province from April 18 to 21. As the world's first large-scale international event focusing on in-person conferences this year, attendance at the forum remained strong, with multiple sub-forums covering hot topics in the field of science and technology.
At a sub-forum on industrial internet and digital transformation held on April 19, guests conducted in-depth discussions and valuable dialogues, exchanged information on a variety of sample cases, and offered suggestions for developing the industrial internet.
The term "industrial internet" was included as a keyword in the government work report of the "two sessions" four times between 2018 and 2021. With support from policies, the construction and application of the industrial internet is on the rise in both traditional and emerging industries.
Huang Wei, China's vice minister of Science and Technology, said the Chinese government attaches great importance to the industrial internet, and has issued a number of related policies. The Ministry of Science and Technology has planned several major R&D projects related to the industrial internet during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, involving theoretical development, technology R&D and platform construction. "In the future, we will deploy industrial internet research and demonstration projects in more fields, such as aviation, electrical appliances, automobiles, smart home appliances and rail transit," Huang said.
"The construction of the industrial internet requires four basic elements: good information infrastructure construction, technological progress, continuous capital investment and attention to revolutionary technologies," Huang said. He added that based on the demand for information infrastructure construction, the government needs to work with enterprises to connect the data chains of R&D and design, manufacturing, sales, operations and maintenance, and user experience. In addition, the industrial internet can bring lower costs, higher efficiency, stronger competitiveness, and better user experience and services, which require continuous and high-intensity R&D investment by enterprises.
According to Huang, it is highly likely that the development of quantum science will completely change issues like information transmission and computing capabilities within 10 to 30 years. As such, all companies and industries in the industrial internet field should attach great importance to the issue and plan ahead.
What successful experiences have there been in building and applying the industrial internet? And what efforts should enterprises be making in terms of management concepts, production methods and technological transformation? Gree Electric Appliances is one of the most representative companies to share its experience.
Dong Mingzhu, Gree's chairwoman and president, said that with the help of intelligent manufacturing concepts, Gree is building unmanned factories. "The internet does not challenge the traditional manufacturing industry, but empowers it,” she explained. “The internet makes the manufacturing industry even more powerful and allows it to create more precise products." She added that thanks to the industrial cloud, Gree has connected all of its 70 global bases, strengthening the company's abilities to respond to risks and control quality.
Zhang Wenlin, president of the Corporate Strategy Department at Huawei Technologies, focused on the "networking rate" of the industrial internet. Statistics show that the current equipment networking rate of Chinese factories is only 24%, while the proportion of products with predictable maintenance performance is less than 14%. He explained that as networks are the base of industrial digitization, the first thing that should be done is to increase the networking rate.
Zhang added that traditional industries are siloed operations, and the process of industry moving toward digitalization involves integrating data into the entire industry, including R&D and design, intelligent manufacturing, and service operations and maintenance.
Zhang used the cooperation between Huawei, SAIC Motor and Masteel Group to explain the benefits brought by the in-depth integration of industrial internet and manufacturing. After SAIC integrated 500 cars, more than 2,000 pieces of intelligent equipment and over 10,000 sensors, the unplanned downtime of the entire production line dropped by 20%, which represents a huge increase in production capacity and quality assurance for the company. Masteel Group set four goals: centralizing all operations, using robots on all operating positions, realizing remote control for all operation and maintenance work, and providing all services online. These goals cannot be achieved using traditional industrial networks, but after cooperating with Huawei, Masteel achieved these goals with the help of advanced network technologies.
Shai-Lee Spigelman, director general of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Israel, believes that in addition to the need to strengthen the physical infrastructure, the industrial internet should also focus attention on the talent gap — the second so-called infrastructure. The development of the industrial internet will also bring new challenges to network security and privacy protection. Spigelman suggested establishing relevant laws, regulations and policies, so as to help the development of enterprises. As such, Israel has launched relevant plans at the national level and made strategic preparations.
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