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The Environment for Intelligent Manufacturing to Be Improved

According to the general requirements for implementing the "6+1" Action of the "Made in China 2025" campaign, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will continue to carry out the Intelligent Manufacturing Experiment & Demonstration Campaign this year and has recently determined and announced the list of 63 intelligent manufacturing pilot and demonstration projects for 2016.  

The 63 project cover 45 industries and 25 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government), involve five latest intelligent manufacturing modes, namely, discrete intelligent manufacturing, process-oriented intelligent manufacturing, web-based collaborative manufacturing, massive customization, and long-distance operational and maintenance services, and reflect an extensive sector and regional coverage and high demonstration value. In a recent interview with our correspondent, Director of the Industrial Equipment Department of MIIT Li Dongri answered questions about the project selection this year and priorities in the next step.

Intelligent project selection

How did you select the 63 demonstrative projects? Compared with previous projects, what characteristics do this year's projects have in sector and regional coverage?

Li Dong: According to the general requirement of the Implementation Plan for the 2016 Intelligent Manufacturing Experiment & Demonstration Campaign published in March this year, we needed to select at least 60 pilot and demonstration projects. In April, we organized experts to conduct research and develop "Conditions for 2016 Intelligent Manufacturing Pilot and Demonstration Projects" as the reference for project selection. In early May, we issued the Notice of the General Office of the MIIT on the Recommendation of Intelligent Manufacturing Pilot and Demonstration Projects for 2016, and asked local industry & information technology authorities to make recommendations. In June, relevant MIIT departments/bureaus organized a joint expert review to evaluate the advanced technology applied, the current implementation, the continuous improvement plan, the demonstrative role, the industry status of recommended projects, etc., and also take into account the industry distribution, regional distribution and the demonstration mode composition, etc. The review results were adopted by the MIIT and made public as required, eventually selecting 63 demonstration projects for this year.

These projects are highly intelligent and cover an extensive range of industries and regions. As to regional distribution, they are located in 25 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government); as to sector distribution, they cover 45 sectors; 25 of them are in the top ten areas of "Made in China 2025" and 38 in other manufacturing areas; as to the pilot and demonstration mode, 23 of them are process-oriented projects, 31 discrete intelligent manufacturing projects, four web-based collaborative manufacturing projects, six massive customization projects and eight long-distance operation and maintenance service projects; as to the corporate nature, 11 of them are owned by central enterprises, 17 by local enterprises and 35 by other types of enterprises.

The implementation effect of last year beat the expectation

What specific requirements do you have for candidate enterprises? How did you set the goal of "two improvements and three reductions"?

Li Dong: We demand pilot and demonstration enterprises to make continuous improvement in intelligent manufacturing to cut the operational cost, shorten the R&D cycle, improve the productivity, reduce the defective product yield, and increase the energy efficiency. Besides, MIIT, local governments and industry associations will launch all sorts of publicity and promotional activities in which enterprises are expected to play an active part, and in particular we shall open field trips for other enterprises in the same industry to help boost the development of intelligent manufacturing.

In the Implementation Plan for the 2016 Intelligent Manufacturing Experiment & Demonstration Campaign, we propose the goal of "two improvements and three reductions": to improve intelligent workshops/plants in two to three years, to reduce the operational cost by 20%, the R&D cycle by 20%, and the defective product yield by 10%, and increase the productivity by 20% and energy efficiency by 10%. This goal is set based on the effect of intelligent manufacturing promotion at abroad and also on the effect evaluation results of 46 demonstration projects for 2015.

Did the 46 demonstration projects launched last year achieve the expected effect? What are the bottlenecks to the promotion of intelligent manufacturing so far?

Li Dong: The campaign of 2015 was warmly received in project areas and industries and achieved desired effect, in particular pilot and demonstration projects. Preliminary sampling statistics show that among the pilot and demonstration projects, 35 digital workshop/plant pilot and demonstration projects saw their operational cost cut by 21% on average, R&D cycle shortened by 35%, productivity up by 38%, defective product yield down by 27% and energy efficiency up by 9.5%, beating the set goal of the campaign.

There are of course problems to overcome. First, companies are not fully aware of the urgency of intelligent manufacturing and many of them just want to wait and see. Secondly, intelligent manufacturing requires advance input, which is a huge burden for companies in particular at a time of economic downturn. The third problem is with the external environment. Current key technical standards are either outdated, missing or uncoordinated, and there's no unified standard for key technologies of intelligent manufacturing such as the Internet of Things and big data, resulting in poor compatibility and great difficulty of integration.

Four favorable policies

What favorable policies do the pilot and demonstration projects enjoy this year?

Li Dong: Before the campaign, we laid down a general approach to fully motivate enterprises to participate in the campaign and while selecting projects, we paid particular attention to projects that had been invested and operated by companies and showed great potentials, to highlight companies' role in integrated innovation, engineering application, industrialization and demonstration. We also make full use of funding sources to grant rewards and subsidies, leverage the leading role of pilot and demonstration units to gather the strengths in production, research and application in the industry, and jointly advance the integrated innovation of key technological equipment, software, complete units of intelligent manufacturing, etc.

As to policy support, first, we will fully utilize existing funding sources such as the dedicated campaign fund, with priority given to intelligent technological upgrade of enterprises. Secondly, we shall add qualified equipment of intelligent manufacturing to the Guide to the Promotion and Application of First Major Technological Equipment (Set) as soon as possible and include it into the scope of the pilot insurance and compensation mechanism for first major technological equipment (set). Thirdly, through the intelligent manufacturing campaign, we shall support the innovation, application and industrialization of key technological equipment, in particular its integration with software, network infrastructure and information security, and intelligent manufacturing standards, to promote integrated innovation and application for intelligent technological upgrade in ten priority areas of "Made in China 2025" and traditional manufacturing. Fourthly, we shall support the innovative development of intelligent manufacturing and improve companies' core competitiveness through the taxation policy for major technological equipment.

What's the plan for the next step for the selected pilot and demonstration projects?

Li Dong: First we shall step up efforts in publicity and promotion. We shall organize a national exchange meeting on intelligent manufacturing pilot and demonstration projects, and mobilize pilot and demonstration projects to participate in the upcoming 18th China International Industry Fair as a group. By the yearend, we will compile typical pilot and demonstration cases for 2016 and report the campaign via media channels. Secondly, we shall strengthen exchange and promotion. In the second half of the year, we will organize experience exchange and model promotional activities for relevant industries. We will also give full play to the role of local governments and industry associations, reform the form of exchange and promotion and accelerate the exchange and promotion of pilot and demonstration projects by region and by industry.

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