Chinese Manufacturing is Going Digital; The U.S. Needs to Follow
The digitization of industrial manufacturing has been a headline topic for the past decade. From HMIs to the IIoT, we’re well into the era of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. But digital technology is far from standard in the U.S., and China’s recent announcement of its five-year digitization plan is set to revolutionize its largest producers. China is taking a definitive step forward. Will U.S. manufacturing follow?
A closer look at China’s five-year plan
In a recent announcement from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and seven other departments, China revealed plans to digitize and shift its factories to sophisticated automation over the next five years. These plans are part of the country’s effort to increase its technology and market competitiveness in advanced manufacturing. According to the plan, “By 2025, more than 70 percent of large-scale Chinese enterprises should be digitalized, and more than 500 demonstration manufacturing facilities will be built nationwide.”
China isn’t the only country trying to establish a position at the forefront of the global manufacturing landscape, but it is lacking in software and industrial infrastructure compared to other leading countries. Germany, Japan, and the U.S. are also making efforts to implement more intelligent manufacturing strategies.
China continues to be proactive
Aspects of China’s five-year plan include efforts to increase research in 5G, artificial intelligence, and edge computing. But digital manufacturing isn’t the country’s only initiative. It’s also working to further develop its robotics, cloud computing, and medical equipment industries.
China is working to become self-reliant in several key areas of manufacturing, including semi-conductors, which are currently in short supply. The country has several developers working on processor chips, some of whom are planning to sell their products outside of China soon. If China manages to create enough of its own semi-conductor suppliers, other countries, including the U.S., may fall further behind.
The U.S. is behind the digitization curve
Manufacturing in the U.S. is behind many other countries in its digital transformation initiatives. Compared to countries like China and Germany, the U.S. has made minimal investments in Industry 4.0 technologies. Major producers — particularly those in automotive and aerospace sectors — have embraced advanced tech, but many small-to-medium-sized manufacturers simply can’t break the innovation cost barrier. In fact, a recent Magnet Blueprint Report showed only 7% of manufacturers in Northeast Ohio utilize co-bots and only 18% use automation to increase profits.
The lack of domestic digitization is starting to show in production inefficiency and higher costs. Coupled with widening skills gaps, the U.S.’s failure to digitize could quickly become detrimental to its global ranking as a manufacturing superpower.
Time to pick up the gauntlet
China’s five-year manufacturing plan should motivate U.S. producers to make key investments in the future of domestic digital manufacturing.
Embracing Industry 4.0, and its automation technologies, is fundamental to a competitive future for U.S. manufacturing.