'Made in China' progresses as global industry undergoes transformation
As the world's leading trade show for industrial technology, the Hanover Industrial Technology Fair is renowned for its showcase of the latest trends in production. This year, the expanded use of Industry 4.0 in the whole production process has been in the spotlight of the exhibition.
With the theme of "Integrated industry -- Connect & Collaborate," Hanover Fair 2018 has attracted over 5,000 exhibitors from 75 countries and regions. It runs until April 27.
Among the world leaders in manufacturing, Chinese companies are catching up with their latest in cutting-edge technology.
More intelligent, connected production
As the organizer of the fair, Deutsche Messe said this year witnessed the trend of more digitized production, the integration of automation technology, IT platforms and machine learning which would take Industry 4.0 to a higher level.
These include the integration of IT and traditional industry, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and others.
For example, Europe's largest software company SAP showcased a simulated production line for beverage bottling. Thanks to the AI system in analyzing real-time data on the production line, bottles can be filled with beverages with different colors, an example of efficient customized production.
The latest IT technology makes machines more clever. Germany's leading intelligent censor maker SICK demonstrated its products that not only know the dimensions of a vehicle, but also could judge whether it is a car, a bus or a truck.
"Traditional sensors transmit only data, which is the result of the third industrial revolution. But smart sensors not only transmit data, they can also process and analyze data into information. That is Industry 4.0," SICK's senior vice president Bernhard Mueller told Xinhua.
"The Industry 4.0 implementation is no longer a showcase or test, instead it is a series of practical implementations," said Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of German car parts maker ZF Group.
"With the help of intelligent sensors, cloud computing and the Internet of Things, robots can see and think," said Scheider.
ZF Group demonstrated a fully-automatic electric forklift with AI control modules, which enable humans to teach machines so that the forklift can select solutions by itself under any situations, and hence substantially reduce error rates and improve productivity.
Progress in advanced industry
The Hanover Fair is a miniature of the development of industry technology in its 71 years of history. As China has become one of the world's major manufacturers, over 1,000 Chinese companies participated the fair this year, ranking second after Germany.
China's home appliance maker Haier demonstrated its new industry idea: from mass production to mass customization. Taking into customers' preferences into consideration, a model fridge or washing machine was produced within six minutes.
At the booth of China's IT giant Huawei, a robot, empowered by the high-speed 5G technology, can analyze and process data in order to prevent a ball from falling out of a tray by constantly adjusting the position of the tray.
"I had thought Chinese products were simply cheap. But when I saw Haier and Huawei's cool technologies here I was really impressed," said Jorn Ids Heins, a student from the Netherlands.
Similar to Germany's Industry 4.0 concept, China unveiled a 10-year national plan, Made in China 2025, designed to upgrade the country's manufacturing industry. The plan aims to promote development in 10 key sectors, including robotics, aerospace equipment and new materials.
Since the plan was introduced in 2015, steady progress has been made in industrial capability, smart manufacturing, innovation, as well as product quality and branding.
Besides Huawei and Haier, the cloud service of heavy machinery maker SANY displayed the integration of traditional industry with intelligence. With the service, heavy machines and wind turbines can be monitored and their data analyzed so that they can be better maintained.
"China has a large number of high-quality professionals," said Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group, the Zurich-headquartered industry giant expert in robotics, power and automation technology.
Spiesshofer added that China will continue to play an important role in artificial intelligence, and ABB will deepen its cooperation with Alibaba, Baidu and other Chinese companies.
Striving for core tech
As the rising tide of isolation and protectionism was perceived as a major threat to the global economy, ideas for free trade and global cooperation were widely embraced at the fair.
Juergen Friedrich, chief executive of Germany Trade and Investment, the country's economic development agency, said that over 4,000 Chinese companies operating in Germany have created more than 60,000 jobs, a solid proof of China's contributions to Germany.
Friedrich called for the Germany-China relationship to be furthered tapped.
"Globalization is an inevitable and irreversible trend and we are the beneficiary of the process. Only through opening up and cooperation can a win-win outcome be achieved," said Wei Yiyin, vice president of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation
After acquiring an electronic engineering company in Luxembourg in 2013, the CASIC's sales volume was doubled five years later.
Qiu Heng, head of global market of Huawei, said the company is making forward-looking plan for core technologies like 5G and a time-sensitive network.
"Corporations must input more in R&D," said Qiu, adding that the company's investment in R&D this year will surpass 100 billion yuan (US$15.86 billion).
Ren Xueliang, senior director of Haier Industrial Engineer, said the company spent 10 years to develop COSMOPlat, an industrial Internet platform introducing users into the whole process of production and mass customization solutions.
R&D needs time, resolution and patience, said Ren, stressing that only persistence can lead to success.
"One of the major differences in industries between China and the developed countries is the accumulation of experience: we have only 30 years of history but Schneider almost two centuries," said Gao Jianguo, president of Changde Tianma Electrical Corporation, which signed a new cooperation agreement with France's electrical giant company Schneider Electric.
"If we want to catch up with the world's most advanced technologies, we need to be open and keep learning," Gao said.