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Changsha: from capital of engineering machinery to China’s leader in intelligent manufacturing

By Liu Ning, Yuan Meng, Jeffrey Moeller, Cui Yue (People's Daily Online)    15:06, November 11, 2019

In the workshop of a Changsha-based manufacturer of electronic smart meters, a few intelligent robots adeptly wave their mechanical arms to sort through products and assemble electrical parts.

Each robot even had a screen showing its seemingly "tired expression" as it works away. These robots have put a smile on the faces of the workers, thanks to a increased efficiency rate of 75 percent on the production line compared with before the robots arrived.

The company, Wasion, committed to the development and servicing of smart energy as well as intelligent power distribution products and solutions, is upgrading its production facility to a digital factory with full information system coverage and a high level of production technology and automation.

Intelligent robots on the smart meter production line of Wasion. (Photo provided by Wasion.)

"Following the trend of Industry 4.0, Changsha is motivating us to find new technologies to manufacture," said Tian Zhongping, President of Wasion Group Limited, in an interview with People's Daily Online.

Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province, has long been praised as "China's capital of engineering machinery". Some of the nation's leading equipment manufacturers are headquartered here, such as Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd and Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co Ltd.

Now the city is transforming into the nation's leading intelligent manufacturing center.

Manufacturers achieve intelligent manufacturing with innovative manufacturing execution system (MES), smart devices, machine-to-machine communication, and data analysis for production lines and facilities.

Changsha sees upgrading the manufacturing sector as the key to driving high-quality development. City authorities have taken measures to encourage traditional manufacturers to use new technologies. For instance, the government and industry leaders co-founded institutes to provide smaller manufacturers with services that facilitate the industrial upgrade, such as consultancy and technology development. Policy support has also been stepped up, such as granting bonuses to manufacturers purchasing intelligent equipment.

Also based in Changsha, Truking is one of China's leading enterprises in pharmaceutical equipment, which has built a comprehensive product chain covering liquid preparations, solid preparations and powder. One of its visions is to promote the pharmaceutical Industry 4.0 by developing a smart pharmaceutical factory, with intelligent robots on the production line.

An intelligent robot on the production line of Truking Technology Ltd. (Photo: Yuan Meng/People's Daily Online)

"This is our future path," said Zhou Feiyue, Vice President of Truking Technology Ltd. "In order for us to better develop intelligent manufacturing, Changsha has gathered abundant resources and has provided convenience for us in terms of human talents, supply chains, and comprehensive supporting facilities and services," he added.

By the end of 2018, a total of 27 enterprises in Changsha had received recognition as national pilot models of intelligent manufacturing, the most among all provincial capitals, according to the Government Work Report of Changsha. The city's industrial transformation is motivating companies of traditional industries to use intelligent manufacturing to help upgrade the manufacturing sector.

Sinoboom, one of China's largest manufacturers dedicated to the development, manufacturing, sales and service of aerial work platforms, is undergoing such transformation and upgrade. Its products include the scissor lift, articulating boom lift, telescopic boom lift, spider lift, mast lift and truck-mounted boom lift, which are exported to countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil for construction projects including oil plants, airports, subways and industrial parks.

A worker tests an aerial work platform at Sinoboom. (Photo: Yuan Meng/People's Daily Online)

To meet the high demand, the company applies intelligent assembly lines in collaboration with human labor in its workshop. According to Zhou Li, director of International Sales at Sinoboom, the company's daily production tripled because of its intelligent workshop, with workers becoming more efficient and more skilled than before. "The quality of our products also has a higher standard than they did previously," Zhou added.

"And thanks to the promotion of Chinese technologies and equipment through the Belt and Road Initiative, the international impression of Chinese brands no longer has the negative connotations of 'Made in China'. Today, 'Made in China' is more intelligent with higher quality," Zhou said.

Zhang Zhenhua, executive director of the overseas business division of Willfar Information, a subsidiary of Wasion, echoed Zhou's point. "Every country, every market, is looking for smart solutions. Intelligent Manufacturing will bring a big opportunity to both China and all the countries involved in the BRI in joined development of infrastructures," Zhang said.

Infore Zoomlion Enviro is an environmental equipment producer based in Changsha, which has developed the world's first 5G sanitation robots. The robot cluster can switch between unmanned and manned modes, and can automatically detect and trace garbage, sweep and wash the road as well as collect and transport garbage. They are made to relieve the city's sanitation labor shortage and rising costs.

The sanitation robot models can switch between unmanned and manned mode, and can also be equipped with a 5G communication module. (Photo provided by Infore Zoomlion Enviro.)

According to the company's Innovation Director, Zhang Bin, the fast cluster remote operation of sanitation robots can be accomplished using 5G plus AI technologies. "We provide the sanitation robots with intelligent sanitation services to help build a national intelligent city system," Zhang said.

Intelligent manufacturing is poised to reshape the manufacturing sector, and Changsha is seizing the opportunity to extend its advantages in the future. It's about leveraging innovative technologies to enhance production efficiency and free up labor from repetitive work. With intelligent manufacturing, "Made in China" will be smarter than ever. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liu Ning, Bianji)

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