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Northeast China revamps its high-end equipment manufacturing sector

One of China’s stated goals is becoming a manufacturing powerhouse by 2050. The high-end equipment manufacturing sector of China’s northeastern region has taken the lead in achieving it.

Brilliance Auto, a domestic automobile manufacturer headquartered in the city of Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, is to launch a new car in just a few days. Thanks to a digital model, the time to market for their new product has been reduced by almost 20 percent.

“We call it the twin factory. Basically, we build this digital model that allows us to develop and optimize products on an entirely virtual basis,” said Xin Zhenyu, product manager of the company.

Traditional product development relies on experience, and many problems may crop up during the engineering process. A digital system can detect such problems in advance.

A total of 150 robots have replaced most of the manual laborers at Brilliance Auto, giving the factory an automation level of 75 percent.

“The robots’ work is more accurate and consistent compared to manual workers, which means an improvement in quality. Manufacturers like BMW have already reached automation levels of nearly 90 percent,” said Xin.

Automation is now a noticeable trend in manufacturing. At Northern Heavy Industries Group, the self-produced tunneling shield is undergoing another test before being released in April.

“Tunneling shields have pretty much replaced manual explosions for tunnel construction, because it is safer and more efficient. We used to rely on our German partners for the technology, but now the R&D and design is all independent,” said Zhao Huaihui, vice general manager of Northern Heavy Industries Group.

China is moving from low-end manufacturing to more value-added production. This is the key tenet of the “Made in China 2025” plan. In Northeast China, high-end equipment manufacturing is the sector that’s been taking the lead, with companies like Brilliance Auto remodeling itself to be more innovation-driven, higher efficient, and emphasizing quality over quantity.

When China introduced its “Made in China 2025” plan, the government said the aim is to elevate the manufacturing sector up the value chain. Since then, high-tech and equipment manufacturing have been posting about 10 percent year-on-year growth.

Zhao said his company has seen how independent development has pushed those corollary equipment manufacturers, such as electric and hydraulic components, to improve their competitiveness.

“The entire industry has been elevated.”

China is currently promoting development in 10 key sectors, including medical devices, high-end shipping building and robotics.