Apr 28, 2017 | By David

3D printing technology is changing the way global manufacturing operates, and is predicted to establish itself even more firmly in the upcoming years, as part of the Industry 4.0. Although the advantages presented by this next phase are clear, some countries are more prepared for it than others. McKinsey and Company has recently opened a new Digital Capability Center in Beijing, to help China stay competitive and up-to-date with the technologies that are set to revolutionize the industry.

Industry 4.0 is a general term for the major disruptive technologies, most of which are already implemented to a greater or lesser degree, that are soon going to transform the entire life cycle of a product. From the initial planning and design phase to after sales service and customer care, businesses have the potential to change their methods for the better, with the help of four new technological developments: advanced production techniques like 3D printing, increased data availability and interconnectivity, analytics including artificial intelligence, and advanced human-machine interactions.

McKinsey recently carried out an industry-wide survey on Industry 4.0, gathering opinions from 130 companies across a range of different sectors. When asked whether Industry 4.0 would improve their company’s competitiveness, nearly 80 percent of Chinese manufacturers answered that it would, compared to 57 percent of U.S companies, 54 percent of Japanese manufacturers, and just 50 percent of respondents from Germany. Despite this positivity and confidence in the potential benefits, only 57 percent of Chinese companies surveyed said that they were ready for Industry 4.0, compared to 71 percent of the generally less optimistic U.S manufacturers. The figure was even lower amongst state-owned Chinese manufacturers, with only 44 percent claiming they were prepared for the new initiatives.

According to the report,“Lack of a systematic roadmap and toolbox is consistently cited as a top obstacle to implementing Industry 4.0 among Chinese manufacturers.” The Digital Capability Center that McKinsey has just set up in Beijing will hopefully go some way towards increasing national readiness for the manufacturing industry’s upcoming digital transformation. A combination of model factory and digital technology showroom, the center was established in partnership with Tsinghua University, one of China’s leading academic institutions. It will provide a safe testing site for companies looking to take advantage of technologies like 3D printing or automated logistics, as well as demonstrating the most cutting edge digital tools and providing a hands-on training experience on a large scale.

Discussing the motivations behind the launch of the new DCC, which is the fifth of its kind after centers established by McKinsey in the United States, Germany, Italy and Singapore, Joe Ngai, Managing Partner, McKinsey Greater China said “Disruption is now a daily reality for companies in China, yet today’s world of rapid technological change also presents opportunities for business leaders. To realize the benefits of disruptive change, even the most successful organizations must continually reinvent themselves.’’ According to Karel Eloot, Senior Partner and Co-Leader of McKinsey’s Operations Practice in Asia, companies using the DCC "can immediately leverage the deep experience of McKinsey’s team of experienced technology and operations experts. Once a company has gone through the Digital Capability Center program, they will be prepared to roll-out what they’ve learned throughout their own operations network”.

Back in 2015, the government launched the ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, promising extensive financial support to change the country from a traditional manufacturing workshop into a leading industrial innovator, making use of 3D printing and other cutting-edge developments. Known as ‘‘the world’s factory’’, China has a huge share of the global exports market, worth $2.4 trillion in 2016. It produces 70 per cent of mobile phones, 80 per cent of air conditioners and 91 per cent of personal computers, but its general manufacturing productivity still falls way behind other developed countries.

Research and development into 3D printing technology is already highly advanced in China, but mostly with smaller start-ups and research agencies. The report indicated that multinationals are still reaping most of the rewards of 3D printing advances, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for implementing Industry 4.0. However, providing a centralized location for developing new breakthroughs and supporting clients at every stage of their evolution means that the new DCC in Beijing will hopefully go some way towards helping China on its way.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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