Life

Factories are changing

  In early March 2023, I went to a toothpaste factory, which was originally located in the urban area. The few times I went there, I could see the busy scene of forklifts coming and going, which left a deep impression on me. . Ten years ago, the brand headquarters was relocated, and the new toothpaste factory has undergone several rounds of technical iterations, the most recent of which will be completed by the end of 2022. This time I am visiting their newest factory.
  When I arrived, I observed carefully and found that the paste making workshop and filling and packaging workshop had completely realized unmanned operation: In the storage link, palletizing robots replaced porters, and forklifts were replaced by AGV vehicles. There are more than a dozen workers in the quality inspection workshop, who work in conjunction with the monitoring equipment, and some workers on the cardboard packaging line. The reason why they have not been replaced is that the cost of machine replacement is higher than that of manpower.
  Machines not only changed the speed of production and per capita labor efficiency, but also replaced jobs plagued by industrial pollution and some jobs that were once considered highly skilled.
  In ceramic sanitary ware factories, glazers are the hardest and most tiring. Because workers have been in the glaze environment for many years, they have become the largest group of pneumoconiosis patients. Today, with the advent of glazing robots, this job has disappeared.
  In leather goods factories, leather cutters are highly respected because of their proficient knowledge of the quality of various furs, and they are also the highest paid jobs. However, with the emergence of leather cutters with scanning and calculation functions, the remaining leather cutters are now Very few.
  If the workshop is the most basic computing unit in the manufacturing industry, then the earth-shaking changes that have taken place here mean that we must rethink the path and possibility of China’s new industrialization.
  Therefore, I came up with several judgments:
  Judgment: Small and medium-sized manufacturing factories will face unprecedented elimination. With the emergence of giant intelligent factories, small and medium-sized factories with assembly as their core competitiveness may not be necessary in the future. The cost reduction and capacity spillover of large factories will cause a “scale-take-all effect” in one industry after another.
  Judgment: The widespread application of robots and intelligent tools has completely changed the previous labor model. The strong ability of the manufacturing industry to absorb labor will weaken, and the number of unskilled blue-collar workers will decrease on a large scale, while there will be a shortage of high-level technicians and engineers. This will pose challenges to existing higher education and vocational education, but also means new opportunities. In the next few years, labor optimization in the manufacturing industry will be a rapid and cruel process.
  Judgment: The matching of industrial clusters will be the core competitiveness of regional industries. In regional industrial cluster belts, large enterprises will play the role of “chain masters”. They provide technology research and development, new product pilot testing, integration and capital connection capabilities, thereby driving the professional division of labor in the entire region. In this process, the “walls” of each factory will be dismantled, and sensors and big data will connect orders in series and redistribute benefits in the value chain.
  Judgment: Small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises must focus on “specialization, specialization and innovation”, have no distractions, and refuse to become bigger. No matter how small or ordinary an industrial product is, it has its own technical threshold in parts and components, as well as parts that can be deeply cultivated and iterated. As long as small and medium-sized enterprises can form their own patent advantages at one point, they can have a foothold in the domestic and even global markets. Entrepreneurs must abandon the “fantasy of scale”, advance to the depth of the industry, be willing to play a supporting role, and strive to become the “invisible champion” that will not be abandoned.
  In April 2013, German scholar Kong Hanning proposed the concept of Industry 4.0, and it has just been ten years since then.
  This was the most ambitious and cruel decade in the history of the industrial revolution, and it was also a decade in which China’s manufacturing industry was reborn. Its brilliance was once overshadowed by the wave of consumer Internet. Now, the tide has receded and the factory is back under the spotlight. “The goddess should be safe, and the world should be shocked.”

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