Data elements contributing to China’s industrial manufacturing innovation

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What is the role of data in industrial product creation, from R&D to manufacturing?

Recently, a three-year action plan was published by 17 government departments, including the National Data Administration (NDA), to promote the use of data as a factor of production and let data play a more significant role in driving economic and social development. According to the action plan, the data use will be boosted in 12 sectors, including industrial manufacturing.

Innovating R&D models, promoting collaborative manufacturing, enhancing service capabilities, and strengthening regional coordination, China’s industrial manufacturing is accelerating efforts to leverage the multiplier effect of data, in order to better drive innovative development.

In the past, the development planning of products in the consumer durables industry relied heavily on manual market research. This resulted in long cycles, limited information, and low efficiency. Data elements can play a significant role in improving this process.

For example, when developing a new dryer, the R&D team of Midea Group, a Chinese home appliance giant, spotted consumers’ demands for “fast drying” and “space saving” by leveraging big data from public opinion, market, user, and business. They also discovered a stronger demand for drying children’s clothes that require frequent washing. 

As a result, the team developed a compact dryer targeting young parents and emphasizing instant drying and disinfection functions. As expected, the product was well-received in the market as soon as it was launched.

An executive in charge of Midea Group’s data business noted that digitalized planning helps with the constant generation of innovative concepts in different product categories.

“It improves the efficiency of product planning by 75 percent, reducing the time for concept discovery and validation research from the previous average of two months to two weeks now,” the executive added.

Data elements are playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturing process as well.

At a plant of Chongqing Tsingshan Industrial Co., Ltd., automated guided vehicles were transporting materials along the automotive transmission assembly line, and industrial robots swinging their arms in coordinated motion as transmissions came off the production line orderly.

“We focus on improving digital capabilities around our business operations, shifting from experience-driven management to data-driven management,” an executive of the company told People’s Daily. 

The company collects real-time data from 153 devices and over 12,000 sensors on the production line, generating over 40GB of data per day, according to the executive. With data flow as the engine, deep analysis of functions like production management and quality control can be achieved, improving production efficiency by 30 percent.

In recent years, China has built a number of distinctive, pioneering intelligent factories. According to statistics released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), 421 pilot demonstration factories at the national level have been supported, promoting the construction of over 10,000 digital workshops and smart factories nationwide. This has established more than 5,500 replicable model scenarios for smart manufacturing.

An MIIT official said the scale of the supporting industries for smart manufacturing, including intelligent equipment, industrial software, and system solutions, exceeded 4 trillion yuan ($555.66 billion) in 2022. The technology of 5G has been piloted in nearly 2,000 factories, making China the world’s largest application market for smart manufacturing. In 2023, the industrial internet achieved full coverage across all major industrial categories.

Recently, China’s homemade C919 large passenger aircraft made its inaugural international showcaseat the Singapore Airshow. What role did data elements play in the development of this large aircraft?

“Focusing on the C919’s entire life cycle, we’ve developed over 450 5G-enabled scenarios, covering design, manufacturing, test flight, operation and maintenance. This enabled collaborative design, flexible assembly, efficient test flight, as well as agile operation and maintenance,” said Zhou Xinmin, general manager of Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

It is learned that COMAC has achieved comprehensive 5G network coverage, enabling remote data interconnectivity between Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. Over 10 fully connected workshops and production lines were built, realizing online data integration of production elements.

For example, 5G-enabled robots reduced deployment and time costs of flexible inspection lines for major aircraft components by 60 percent, and big data collection equipped with 5G improved the planning efficiency of aircraft assembly by 50 percent.

Zhu Min, director of the Informatization and Industrialization Integration Research Institute of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, believes that the integration and application of data and the industrial sector is currently reflected in three aspects: improving R&D and innovation efficiency through data-driven models, enhancing production efficiency, and optimizing industrial chain resource allocation.

In the time of accelerating new industrialization, industrial data has become a new production factor. With the rapid growth of data scale and preliminary formation of the data industrial chain, the integration of data and the industrial sector continues to deepen.



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