Black light factories and unmanned factories are just “model rooms” for giants to enter the industrial Internet?

Can Dong Mingzhu’s “black light factory” with thousands of people realize Industry 4.0?

Black light factories and unmanned factories are just "model rooms" for giants to enter the industrial Internet?

Article丨Intelligent Relativity

Author丨Chen Xuanbin

Dong Mingzhu and Hei Deng Factory are both on the hot search.

At the 2021 World Artificial Intelligence Conference, Gree Electric’s Dong Mingzhu said that under the drive of digitization, Gree has realized a black light factory, and a factory with 10,000 people in the past now only has 1,000 people. With the blessing of AI, unmanned operation has brought disruptive changes to accuracy, quality, and efficiency.

In words, Dong Mingzhu spoke highly of the black lamp factory, which seems to be a new driving force for Gree manufacturing in the future. Coincidentally, it is not just Gree. In recent years, many giants and bigwigs have claimed to build black lamp factories to improve quality and production. Dong Mingzhu’s old friend Lei Jun is one of them.

In August last year, at the 10th anniversary celebration of Xiaomi , Lei Jun revealed to the outside world the construction of Xiaomi’s smart factory. The black light factory with an annual output of one million high-end mobile phones was one of the highlights. According to Xiaomi, the factory can realize the full-process automatic black light production of the entire factory’s production management process, mechanical processing process, and packaging, storage and transportation process. In the past, four or five workers were required for the front and back ends of the placement machine. Instead of manpower.

It can be said that every giant that has built a black lamp factory has issued a high evaluation of it. As the next form of industrial manufacturing upgrade, the black lamp factory has been a focus topic in manufacturing-related fields since its production period. In the hot discussion, many people will regard the black lamp factory as the future form of Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet, but This perception is wrong.

What is good about the black lamp factory favored by giants?

At present, whether it is traditional manufacturing giants, industrial giants, or Internet technology companies, they are successively investing in the construction of black light factories and unmanned factories, making them a highlight of their own industrial chain. In general, special projects such as black light factories and unmanned factories that integrate brand-leading technology are a bit of a “model room” in themselves. The value of the brand does not come from the production process.

1. As a “experimental field” to test future manufacturing processes and industrial processes.

Leading by intelligent manufacturing, black light factories generally integrate many current popular cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, 5G, etc., which is an attempt by enterprises to reform manufacturing processes and industrial processes with information technology . Manufacturing giant Foxconn currently has a similar orientation toward factory construction. Through continuous verification and iteration, it continues to transform the factory’s application system, and even summarizes experience to empower other brands of factories.

Specifically, for the black lamp factory, Foxconn continues to use digital tools, automated, digital, and intelligent advanced applications to introduce them into their production capabilities, products themselves, and production management. With the gradual introduction of these tools and technologies, the application system is transformed, which will eventually affect the production system and form a transformation template, which provides basic reference value for the transformation of thousands of Foxconn factories worldwide.

2. As a “catalyst”, help the brand “reinvent” and enhance brand competitiveness.

In fact, the society and the public have paid more and more attention to technology in recent years . For enterprises, it is a very easy action to gain social favorability to enter the technical field. Especially in the manufacturing field, if we can take the lead in using cutting-edge technology to reform and empower the traditional manufacturing system, then the brand’s influence in the market can easily be improved.

This is particularly prominent in Xiaomi, which has long been criticized by the market and users as a “foundry brand”. The completion of the Xiaomi Smart Factory not only announces the transformation of Xiaomi from OEM to independent R&D and production, but also demonstrates Xiaomi’s hard work in core technology. At present, Xiaomi Black Light Factory has a number of core technologies such as self-developed board test system, central dispatching control platform, automatic calibration vision algorithm, self-developed complete test system, parallel software system, and intelligent control center.

It is reported that in order to build this factory, Xiaomi has invested in 110 companies that make smart equipment in three years. Such investment is very critical for the upgrade of the Xiaomi brand. From the perspective of the outside world, the value of upgrading the production process is far greater than the significance of increasing the price of high-end mobile phones.

3. As a “blasting point”, carrying the key business or regional node work of the enterprise.

Judging from market feedback, the automation process of the black light factory has a significant improvement in work efficiency compared to manual labor. Therefore, for most companies, the layout of the black light work does have a key market consideration, that is, to place the black light factory in key business areas or regional locations, and assume the work capabilities of the core nodes. For example, the Xiaomi smart factory mainly It is the production of high-end mobile phones.

In terms of unmannedness as a standard, Ali’s Cainiao’s unmanned warehouse and JD ’s Asia One can also be regarded as black light factories. They are deployed in the most critical link of e-commerce business-logistics, which needs to handle hundreds of millions of items every day Express mail carries huge logistics pressure. At present, Shanghai “Asia One” has become the mainstay of JD Logistics’ business development in East China. After taste the sweetness of the automated warehousing system, JD continues to deploy different levels in economically developed and frequent logistics areas such as Beijing, Wuhan, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. The unmanned warehouses, which strongly open up the key nodes of the national logistics network.

Black light factory, it is not easy to light up

It can be said that whether it is for brand building, industrial exploration, or market development, the black lamp factory has a very obvious value for companies to improve quality and efficiency. However, on the other hand, black light factories are not common. Whether it is for giants or ordinary enterprises, building black light factories does not seem to be an easy task.

First of all, it is worth mentioning that although the efficiency of the black lamp factory is far higher than that of the traditional factory, the same investment is also more than that of the traditional factory. Take a brief look at the black lamp factory project currently put into production in the market. The total investment of Xiaomi Smart Factory is as high as 600 million, and Boss Electric has invested nearly 500 million in total. From a dismantling point of view, according to industry sources to “Intelligent Relativity”, investing in an automated production line will cost about 8 million yuan, which will fluctuate depending on the industry.

For most companies, such a cost investment has far exceeded the affordability of their own companies. Therefore, small-scale clothing business owners in Foshan, Guangdong, when talking about black light factories, smart factories, or industrial Internet with the “Intelligent Theory of Relativity,” they often laugh bitterly. “The automated production line is really great, but I can’t afford it. The temple is too small for Big Bodhisattva…”

According to the “Intelligent Theory of Relativity”, the current wages of ordinary workers in the clothing industry in Foshan, Guangdong are about 7k-10k, most of which are piece-rate wages. The working hours are about 12 hours, and the workers in small garment factories are about 30-50. According to this In terms of standards, the cost of manual production is far less than that of an automated production line, and for business owners, the risk factor is even smaller.

So, for small and medium-sized enterprises, the black lamp factory has no application value, and it is really “ineffective investment.” At present, my country is mainly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises, accounting for 99%. Under such circumstances, the black lamp factory has a relatively limited role in upgrading my country’s overall industrial manufacturing industry.

Secondly, at the technical level, the current technical system and technological maturity also have limited support for the black light factory. From the perspective of disassembly, the cutting-edge of black light factory technology application is mainly displayed in three levels.

The first is network transmission technology. For example, using 5G edge computing technology to deploy gateways, servers and other equipment on the side of the production line, user data is processed and transmitted in the edge computer room without returning to the core network through the transmission network, which reduces latency and ensures Production data is not passed on.

The second is information perception technology, such as the use of visual perception technology to identify the identification code of goods or production parts to automatically obtain production information and provide major information support for automated production;

The third is robotic technology. At present, the black lamp factory will use industrial manipulators, palletizing robots, AGVs and other robots to assist production, responsible for transportation, assembly, welding, spraying and other tasks.

At present, these technologies are still iteratively updated. In the process of application, it can indeed increase the degree of automation of the production line. However, the actual effect of the improvement of the intelligence of the black lamp factory needs a breakthrough. At the same time, the continuous iterative update of technology and application innovation is also very difficult for an SME.

It is understood that most of my country’s small and medium-sized enterprises do not have information technology teams. Whether it is network transmission, information perception, or robot applications, from deployment to operation and maintenance, it is difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to get started.

Objectively speaking, it can become a “model room” for giant brands, and it can be the icing on the cake, but it cannot become a “just-needed house” for small and medium-sized enterprises, and it is difficult to put it into production on a large scale.

The road to manufacturing is heavy and long way to go

The black light factory does present us a highly automated and intelligent new manufacturing scene, and it also makes the development of cutting-edge technologies have clearer goals and application paths. However, if the black lamp factory is regarded as the final form of the future manufacturing industry, it is obviously a bit too reputed.

Regardless of whether it is for giant brands or small and medium-sized enterprises, the black lamp factory is just a prototype of the future manufacturing industry.

First of all, for small and medium-sized enterprises, the high cost and long cycle of black light factories are not suitable for the current market operation laws. Simply put, it is obviously not feasible to spend all the funds of the entire company in order to invest in a state-of-the-art production line. The black lamp factory does not have the value of re-engraving for small and medium-sized enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises still need to explore new models or new ideas with more application value.

Secondly, for the giant brands, there is still room for continuous leaping in the exploration of the black light factory, which is in urgent need of breakthrough. To discuss briefly, standardized automatic production is not the same as the flexible production goal of Industry 4.0. At present, the main highlight of the black lamp factory is to use automation to improve the efficiency of repetitive labor. The parameters and specifications of each product are the same, and most of the production is standardized.

However, the flexible production to be achieved by Industry 4.0 is not only automated production, but the most important thing is to adjust the production process in a timely manner to achieve mass customization based on the individual needs of users. So for the current automated production process, there are still many areas where the black lamp factory needs to be refined, which involves not only automation, but also intelligent and digital upgrades.

Concluding remarks

At present, countless Chinese manufacturing giants and technology companies are trying their best to use robots and automation to change production processes on an unprecedented scale. Under the complicated and cumbersome path, we still need to maintain a dialectical thinking to examine each project to avoid blindness.

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