“I think it is safe to say that Fuyao is well positioned to ride on the tide of Industry 4.0.” Zhang Bo, a top scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, gave highly positive views on Fuyao’s capability and its idea on promoting intelligent manufacturing after he was given a tour around the company’s research institute and factories during his visit to Fuyao’s headquarters on April 27. He was amazed, saying, “I thought this was merely a piece of plain glass, but it is actually a high-tech product.” In the afternoon, in his address titled “Robots and Artificial Intelligence” at Fuyao’s multi-function hall, Mr. Zhang said that China has become the largest market for industrial robots with the most pressing demand. According to Mr. Zhang, “For every ten thousand manufacturing workers, China has about 30 robots, South Korea 437, Japan 323, and the US over 100.”
But Fuyao’s statistics show that for all the twenty thousand workers in the company, there are over 500 robots, including 400 imported ones and over 100 manufactured by the company itself, a proportion almost the same with that of Japan, and much higher than that of the US.
After more than 30 years of business in the auto glass industry, Fuyao clearly understands that to stand firm in the global market, it must successfully balance cost, quality, delivery time, and intelligent products to maintain profitability and global competitiveness. Fuyao has the following core advantages in building intelligent plants:
1. Over 50% of its safe and controllable equipment can be made by itself and it has world-leading automated production capability.
With the ability to make state-of-the-art equipment, Fuyao is able to optimize its production line with both self-manufactured and imported equipment. As a result, it now uses mechanical arms to load; cutting, break outing, grinding, and connecting are controlled by the complete production line servo system. After automatic printing, the glass will be sent to the interlayer-pressing furnace to be formed. The manufacturing of windshield glass with a self-made interlayer is now fully automated instead of semi-automated as in the past. Thanks to all these changes, Fuyao was able to reduce its staff numbers, decrease workload for employees, increase work safety, improve product quality, and save more energy.
2. In a complex production environment, self-made equipment, domestic equipment, and imported equipment are stable, safe, reliable, and interconnected. During production, 100% of key manufacturing data can be collected.
Thanks to the MES program, Fuyao has connected most of its self-made, domestic, and imported equipment through an industrial Ethernet. It has also upgraded the PLC control system to make sure equipment information can be collected and controlled. Lastly, the company has made a detailed plan for its business management, which will be implemented in three phases.
In the first phase, with the help of the MES system, Fuyao will be able to realize planned management, production process management, logistics management, equipment interconnection, ERP integration, PLM integration, and CRM integration. In automatic data collection, Fuyao MES will cover the following key areas.
3. Fuyao has a one-stop solution for providing customized and highly simulated products of excellent quality and high added value.
Keeping its eyes on the changing demand in markets and making full use of its advantages, Fuyao has achieved many technological innovations. In recent years, the company has developed a series of products popular with customers, including:
—Ultraviolet-proof auto glass that can block 99% of ultraviolet rays without screening visible light. This product can prevent drivers and passengers from getting sunburned and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer. It can also prevent discoloration in the car from aging and yellowing due to ultraviolet.
—Glass that changes its transparency degree anytime so as to provide a safe and private environment for passengers.
—Head-Up Display (HUD) glass that is fit to the dashboard. With this glass, drivers are able to see speed, fuel, and other driving information in a normal driving position instead of being distracted by looking down at the dashboard.
—Sound-proof glass that can reduce noises in the car by five to ten decibels, solar-powered sunroof glass, and water-resistant glass, all of which are high-end products fitted with core technologies. These cutting-edge products are trendsetters in the industry and are popular both at home and abroad.
Cooperating with Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in China, and Shanghai Hand, Fuyao has vigorously promoted its program to build an intelligent auto glass plant with high added value. Now it has a pilot program at its Fuqing-WandaPlant. This is not a move to jump on the bandwagon. Rather, it is a targeted move intended to solve problems, creating an end-to-end system that provides a quicker channel between different internal departments, so that Fuyao is able to upgrade its production and respond to changes in markets efficiently. Fuyao aims to strengthen itself comprehensively through integration of manpower and industrial robots, setting a good Industry 4.0 example for other Chinese manufacturers and creating a brand new image for Chinese businesses in the international market.
Fuyao has been making steady progress in its intelligent plant program and will make great achievements in terms of economic and social influences.
1. With the increasing capability of manufacturing equipment on its own that is able to meet industrial demand, Fuyao is able to break international companies’ monopoly in China’s glass manufacturing, reducing business and industry cost and enhancing Chinese glass businesses’ global competitiveness.
2. Better innovation and manufacturing of high-end products have helped Fuyao and other Chinese manufacturers excel at marketing and design, going toward the two ends of the Smiling Curve. Therefore, multinational corporations’ monopoly over high-end auto products in China has been broken.
3. Cases and models of standard settings that emerge during the promotion of the program are good examples for other companies in the same industry. China’s manufacturers can draw lessons from these examples to shift from an obsolete model that relies on low-cost labor, thus realizing industrial upgrades.
The intelligent plant program can bring about the following changes:
• It will help Fuyao bring about intelligent upgrades in core equipment and gain its own manufacturing ability.
Fuyao can replace its old equipment and human labor with high-precision automated equipment and processes to avoid size deviations caused by human error and to guarantee that all products are uniform and high-precision.
The company can upgrade its existing core equipment, monitoring equipment, sensors, control equipment, software, and network equipment to create production flexibility between production lines and factories, so that it will be able to provide a large number of customized products.
• Fuyao will be able to acquire key technologies for interconnectivity and ensure information security.
In Fuyao’s factories, there is equipment made by Fuyao itself, by major Chinese manufacturers, and by international companies. Among its PLC controllers, there are also multiple brands, both Chinese and international ones. In addition, different kinds of PLC equipment use different communication ports. As a result, it is extremely challenging to implement interconnectivity between all the equipment.
After completing a review of all the equipment, Fuyao decided to modify core equipment together with core suppliers. First, it plans to modify all the PLCs to make them connectable. Second, it will connect all the PLC equipment through the Ethernet. Based on the above conditions, Fuyao will do their best to guarantee equipment’s information security.
• Fuyao will be able to make breakthroughs in key procedures in making high-value-added glass with special functions.
Auto glass’s special functions include: insulation, energy conservation, water resistance, sound proofing, antenna, heating, fog and frost removal, privacy, HUD, color and light change, use of solar power, glare proofing, and encapsulation. Coated glass is the most common functional product. Since Fuyao has established its own coating technology research team in 2006, the group has made many innovations and developed its own coating core technologies after careful reading of foreign literature and published materials. In 2008, Fuyao’s first coating production line began to roll out product, smashing international corporations’ long-term monopoly in this field. Its second coating production line made huge upgrades in both technologies and products in 2011, shortening the technological gap between Chinese and international coating from twenty years to five years.
For the R&D of every functional product, Fuyao has always followed the path of learning first, absorbing experience and then making innovations. Standing on giants’ shoulders, Fuyao, with its strong innovative spirit and its vision of making auto glass with independent Chinese technologies, has provided carmakers, especially Chinese carmakers, a customizable package solution.
• The company will have better simulation during glass forming and improve procedure design and control.
Since 2005, Fuyao has done a great deal of research on glass forming, trying to find the best technology by simulating and optimizing techniques, design, and control of coated glass that can heat with the help of simulation technologies. It has applied for multiple patents and some have been issued. Fuyao will continue innovating and improving itself.
• Fuyao will be able to solve problems in logistics management customized glass whose annual output is nearly 200 million units.
To be able to produce a large number of customized products, Fuyao needs highly efficient production, shipping and storage, and accurate identification of products and customers to arrange logistics resources in a reasonable way and deliver products on time.
As a result, Fuyao needs to have an integrated approach to handle order receiving, product design, procedure design, planning, material tracking, production preparation, production tracking, product checking, and shipping. Factories should use RFID, bar codes, and QR codes to identify products, materials, and other production factors. At the same time, all key business procedures should be aligned to make sure the flow of products and information is matched. Only with all these measures in place, can Fuyao support its large-scale customization business.
• Fuyao can realize a vision of interconnected businesses with the help of big data and cloud computing.
Interconnectivity between companies is necessary for a quicker IPO, lower total cost of ownership, higher asset utilization ratio, and better risk management, which are four factors for profitability. By working with experts and partners, Fuyao is able to develop an open industrial network that connects IT with OT. It will create visible and tangible value for businesses by innovating production processes and business models and tapping potential value of all industrial intelligent assets.
It is easy for us to see that intelligent manufacturing can bring a bright future for Fuyao. As Mr. Zhang said during his visit on April 27, “The ultimate goal of promoting automation is not to get rid of manpower, but to let robots and human beings make the best use of their advantages respectively.” In any age, the key to social progress and advances is always held by human beings. It is exactly because of humankind’s innovation that Fuyao has leapt from Industry 1.0 to 2.0 and 3.0 and are marching to 4.0. To realize intelligent manufacturing and ride on the tide of Industry 4.0, it takes hard work and strong determination for all Fuyaoers.