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AI promotes high-quality development of manufacturing industry

Author  :  FANG XIAOXIA and LI XIAOHUA     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-11-11

The manufacturing industry is the foundation of national economic development. The Chinese economy has transformed from high-speed to high-quality growth. Artificial intelligence has become a representative technology for a new round of technological and industrial revolution. Exploring the role of AI in promoting the transformation and upgrading of the manufacturing industry and introducing reforms in the quality, efficiency and driving force of the manufacturing industry is a necessary direction for the high-quality development of China’s manufacturing industry. 

In recent years, China’s manufacturing industry has faced a series of problems including rising costs of factors of production and sluggish growth of total factor productivity. Meanwhile, traditional modes of management and production cannot satisfy the market needs that are rapidly changing and becoming increasingly customized and diversified. AI, as one of the most revolutionary technologies since the internet, provides new opportunities for a new round of transformation of the manufacturing industry.

The application of AI technology will not only liberate the workers from cumbersome manual labor but also replace some mental labor, passing down and spreading human knowledge in a digital way. The AI system can also conduct comprehensive analyses of data about sales, customer service and customer evaluation as well as real time usage of certain products. This will help evaluate user preference, discover potential needs and accurately predict sales trends, providing better guidance for product design and the production process. 

AI will not only make the production line more flexible, but also develop autonomous capabilities of adaptation, sensing, decision-making, learning and optimization. This will lead to a production that is driven by users, reducing product inventory and product waste as far as possible. The users can even participate directly in the product design or get an individual design plan recommended by the AI system. Users in this way can get a customized product at a low cost.

The production process can be optimized by making an intelligent analysis of the equipment data collected by sensors and the internet of things, reducing consumption of energy and materials. The application of AI can also monitor the condition of the equipment, providing early warnings about possible malfunction. 

The application of AI in the manufacturing industry can also integrate the data from factories, upstream suppliers and downstream service providers. By applying AI analysis, the entire business ecological cycle will be able to respond quickly and efficiently to market change, optimizing the supply chain.

AI systems implemented in products will enable them to respond to users’ instructions with natural languages and hand signals. Companies will also be able to provide diverse value-added services based on intelligent platforms, transforming themselves from providers of products to providers of products and services. 

China is now one of the leading countries in developing AI technology. China has unique advantages in promoting the upgrading of the manufacturing industry with AI technology. These advantages include technological innovation, massive data, an enormous market and the proactive participation of companies.

China has advantages in technological innovation. As for fundamental research and development, China is now in a leading position in terms of the number of papers published and cited and the number of patent applications. As for supporting technology, Chinese supercomputers have ranked first in the world for several years. Many supercomputers and cloud computing centers have been built across the nation. As for patent applications, China is in a leading position in such fields as automatic visual and speech recognition. 

China has the advantage of massive data. As a large country in manufacturing and internet use, China has the advantages of a large population, massive data and low cost of data annotation. The wide use of automatic and intelligent equipment in recent years has laid the foundation for accumulating high-quality data and introducing AI technology in the manufacturing industry.

In addition, China has an enormous market. China has the largest variety of manufacturing sectors with the largest number of companies, providing diverse scenarios and a broad space for the application of the deep integration of AI and the manufacturing industry.

Moreover, Chinese companies have played proactive roles in promoting the application of AI in the manufacturing industry. Domestic internet giants such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have put great effort into establishing a comprehensive ecosystem that includes basic R&D, open platforms with open source, and the diverse industrial application of AI technology. 

The essence of promoting the high-quality development of manufacturing in an intelligent age is not merely about the application of the technology, but also about the fundamental transformation of the development mode of the entire manufacturing industry.

The government should make a roadmap for AI technology development in the manufacturing industry. The government should also conduct pilot projects in promoting R&D and advanced procedures in manufacturing companies. In addition, the government should establish regulations and a standard system, speeding up the standardization and unification of data. In addition, the government should make an industrial code for regulating issues about security and technological ethics in AI application. Last of all, China should improve its system of educating and training professionals for promoting AI application in the manufacturing industry. 


This article was edited and translated from Economic Daily. Fang Xiaoxia and Li Xiaohua are from the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.





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