Biz / Tech

City reaps benefits in nation's pilot project

Ningbo, the first city to take the nation’s pilot project of smart manufacturing upgrading, has refreshed itself by taking in talent and advanced technologies worldwide.
Ti Gong

Fotile, one of the largest kitchen ware sellers, is a leader in advanced manufacutring in Ningbo.

One year on, Ningbo, the first city to take the nation’s pilot project of smart manufacturing upgrading, has refreshed itself by taking in talent and advanced technologies worldwide.

Over the first half year, Ningbo’s gross domestic product rose 7.8 percent year on year to 445.65 billion yuan (US$67 billion), 0.9 percentage points faster than the nation’s average. The growth was mainly contributed by its industrial growth, with equipment manufacturing leading all sectors by jumping 13.8 percent from a year ago in its output.

Assigned to pilot the “Made in China 2025” initiative, which aims to upgrade the nation’s industry by injecting advanced technologies into manufacturing, on August 19 last year, “Ningbo has discovered its own way to boost innovation and transformation by implementing such policy,” said the city’s vice mayor Chen Zhongchao.

Ti Gong

Zhongyin (Ningbo) Battery Co's "dark plants" project, which means they don't need to turn on lights at plants as they've replaced workers with robots, automatically conveying components and assembling products day and night.

Ningbo will host a conference to review its implementations late this year while the exact time and venue haven’t been confirmed, according to Ningbo Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

Of all its actions, attracting talent comes first. By 2019, Ningbo aims to take in over 450 professionals who will lead in advanced manufacturing, along with 10,000 who lead in innovation and entrepreneurship, according to its policy to implement “Made in China 2025.” Meanwhile the city will nurture 200 outstanding workers who are experienced in industrial skills and know-how.

Chu Zhaojie, deputy chief of the general office at the Ningbo Commission of Economy and Information Technology, said talent is the key to boost industrial upgrading in Ningbo, who would bring advanced technical results covering digital technologies, new materials and key industrial equipment such as ocean engineering equipment and modern medical devices.

A professional leading in advanced manufacturing can receive subsidies up to 2 million yuan while companies will receive a subsidy between 100,000 yuan and 300,000 yuan on each engineer who brings high-tech research results from abroad.

Local experienced workers meanwhile will be reassured by taking in tests for certificates, which are to certify industrial skills. These skills bolster upgrading from the basis.

Professional was once the “short slab” of the city’s development.

“We have nurtured a mass of talent, sending them to top universities such as Peking and Tsinghua, but few of them came back as they would find jobs in larger cities,” said Dai Huaxiang, deputy director of Yinzhou, a district in Ningbo.

While cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen pay 8,000 yuan per month on average for engineers good at robotics, “we need to pay more to attract them to relocate to Ningbo, with their salaries higher than 12,000 yuan per month,” said Zhao Zhihui, chairman of Ningbo Pulida Intelligent Technologies Co, a local robot producer.

Ti Gong

Zhongyin (Ningbo) Battery Co's "dark plants" project

Ningbo’s implementation of “Made in China 2025,” however, has overturned such situation, enhancing the attractiveness of local companies and helping upgrade mentalities among their managers.

Zhongyin (Ningbo) Battery Co has been a “poster boy” for its “dark plants,” which means they don’t need to turn on lights at plants as they’ve replaced workers with robots, automatically conveying components and assembling products day and night.

Instead of recruiting low-salary operators, it currently is in great need of engineers specialized in research and development. Chang Wei, its engineering manager, said the company has been hunting for “well trained professionals in mechanical skills, which would continuously help our upgrading.”

Sunny Optical Technology Co, a Ningbo-based optical product company, said it plans to recruit engineers on digital technology to help transform its products.

Sales of Sunny Optical Technology surged 60 percent from a year ago, “thanks to our strategy to shift to industries such as Internet of Things and smart manufacturing,” said Li Qingxi, its director for strategic development.

After upgrading its equipment and technologies, the company plans to hire more engineers to help continuously boost its development, Li added.

“In the near future, we expect talent from metropolitan cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing will flow into Ningbo, as our local companies will be at the vanguard of China’s industrial development, which provides a platform to apply the scientific results into the ‘real economy,’” the commission’s Chu said.

While those larger cities have more universities to develop new research findings, “we will offer the platform to help the dreams of talents come true,” Chu added.

Ningbo would post its next glorious industrial era in the coming years following these measures, vice mayor Chen echoed by highlighting the city’s solid industrial foundation.

In the past decades Ningbo has led China in industries such as home appliances and car making, with nearly a third of the nation’s output of “white goods” contributed by the city every year.

Now the local producers accelerate to transform central government’s call for quality and innovation.

Ti Gong

Fotile's kitchen ware featuring advanced manufacturing

Fotile, a kitchen ware producer, last year put forward a kitchen ventilator which can exhaust smokes in seconds. To ensure that effect, their researchers fried over 1,000 kilograms of spices to test the reliability.

While Fotile has already been one of the largest kitchen ware sellers in China, it will further lead the market in innovation and quality in the future, its chairman Mao Zhongqun said.

Shenglong, a Ningbo-based car parts maker, spares 6 percent of its revenue every year to research and development, to ensure it keeps the leading position in China’s car making industry. Ningbo entrepreneurs are always willing to invest in research and development rather than speculating in industries such as real estate, said Yinzhou District’s Dai.

While over last decade China’s real estate posted faster profit growth than industries such as manufacturing, which attracted mass of funds from producers, “lots of entrepreneurs have stuck to their own business,” Dai said.

Ningbo’s industries such as car making and “white goods” have kept a growth speed at around 10 percent year on year, Dai added. Under these foundations, the city has confidence in leading industrial reform.

By 2025, Ningbo will have nurtured over 30 companies listed in China’s top 500. By 2035, the city aims to become an international manufacturing hub leading in sectors covering integrated circuit, new materials and electric cars, its government pledged in an outline to implement the “Made in China 2020” policy.

“We are sure by then the city will be the nation’s important manufacturing center,” Chu said. “And we have proven our ability by implementing the nation’s smart manufacturing policy over the past year.”

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