(Yicai Global) April 5 -- Rising employment costs have driven many labor-intensive Chinese household electric appliance factories to replace manual workers with machines. 'Networked' plants capable of expediting stock turnover and improving operating efficiency by integrating, user, research and development, supply chain and logistics resources have emerged.
Plant buildings at Galanz's production base in Zhongshan in China's southern province Guangzhou are nearly free of human workers. The manufacturing facility is home to the world's first automatic electric steamer production line operated by only three technicians. It is 16 times more efficient than traditional manual production and saves 72 percent of manpower, the plant manager said. It turns a piece of ordinary steel into an electric steam chamber in 15 seconds.
The average productivity at Galanz increased 15.76 percent last year, said Li Feng, general manager at Galanz Microwave Oven Co. Production workflow will continue to be improved this year, Li said. The group is targeting a 30 percent uptick in overall efficiency.
Like other Chinese appliance makers, Galanz has successfully competed on the global market using cost advantages including the economies of scale. All major Chinese manufacturers have introduced strategies that 'substitute robots for humans' in the face of soaring labor costs and growing consumption.
Intelligent manufacturing aims to reduce labor cost and improve product quality and profitability. "We combine users' needs with production data," said Chen Lucheng, vice president and supply chain director at Haier Home Appliances Group. Some 12 percent of air-conditioner customers complained about motor noise, and "We separated noise related data generated during the production process from the rest, and solved the issue completely using intelligent testing techniques."
A Midea air-conditioner production center in Nansha, Guangzhou has a data room that is connected with production equipment through the Internet of Things, enabling workers to access real-time information via smartphones, said Wang Xiaojin, the plant's manager.
Midea has implemented order-based production models in all its major plants. Information is shared with all players along the industry chain so that once an order has been placed by a client, suppliers immediately start preparing materials and the products are delivered as soon as they have been produced by the plant, said Wu Shoubao, general manager of Midea's air-conditioner division. This has helped reduce turnaround time at the company by 50 percent.