Country Focus: Digitalisation and business growth in China

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The plastics industry is undergoing a change that started a few years ago with digitalisation and networking and Industry 4.0 not just buzzwords these days. This year’s Chinaplas show in Guangzhou had companies rolling out the latest smart manufacturing technologies.

Digitalisation comes into the main frame

German injection moulding machine firm Arburg for the first time presented a Chinese version of its new arburgXworld customer portal at the show. It will be available to Chinese customers as early as this summer and from K2019 onwards in October, the customer portal will become available worldwide.

Digital assistance packages and the potential of Augmented Reality (AR) for service purposes were also showcased as further highlights on the subject of digitalisation.

Arburg will bundle its digital services in this new service marketplace and gradually expand them. Once enabled, the required apps in the cloud can be used on a PC or mobile device. To mark the launch of the customer portal, there will be four apps: “Machine Center”, “Service Center”, “Shop” and “Calendar”:

  • The “Machine Center” app brings transparency to production and reduces organisational effort. It provides a quick overview of the machine fleet and enables central access to production-relevant documents.

  • The “Service Center” app can be used to start service tickets around the clock – including from mobile devices on site. Open service tickets, the current processing status and the planned deployment of service technicians are clearly displayed and can be centrally tracked.

  • The spare parts catalogue is a central component of the “Shop” app. Interactive navigation and clear 3D previews make searching easier. In addition, there is direct access to prices and availability.

  • In “Calendar”, upcoming maintenance and other tasks can be clearly displayed.
Arbug at Chinaplas

As a central component of Industry 4.0, the Arburg host computer system (ALS) enables production planning as well as complete traceability of orders and batches. Allrounder machines, the Freeformer for industrial additive manufacturing and peripheral equipment can be easily and uniformly networked using interfaces based on the OPC UA communication platform.

At Chinaplas, all Arburg exhibits were connected to ALS in this way. The host computer system records and archives all the relevant process data online and is linked directly to the company network via a PPS or ERP interface.

Automation and Industry 4.0

Austrian machine maker Engel says its efforts in digitalisation started ten years ago, and now it has “thousands of solutions in area of digitalisation”. Claimed Gero Willmeroth, President East Asia and Oceania of Engel, based in Shanghai, “We have not one but many solutions for Industry 4.0 for MNCs, since machines are becoming more integrated system solutions.”

Gero Willmeroth

At Chinaplas, Engel showed its Inject 4.0, labelled as the “factory of the future”, on a tiebarless Emotion 80 TL. During the manufacture of LED lenses, Engel used the iQ weight control assistance to ensure permanent adaptation of process parameters based on real time data, an essential feature of the smart factory in Industry 4.0.

“Our system showcases how Industry 4.0 improves productivity and how things are getting easier. Thanks to the self-optimising machine, we make it simple for processors to leverage the full efficiency and quality potential. Even semi-skilled employees who do not yet have much injection moulding experience are able to produce a consistently high quality,” claimed Willmeroth.

Dr Boy

Meanwhile, compatriot Dr Boy says it met perfectly the automation trend with the presentation of a fully automated production line, including a packaging machine. The Boy 35E, with a compact footprint of 4.5 sq m, was shown with automated production of delicatessen trays and integrated packaging. With the processing of two-component liquid silicone rubber (LSR) on a Boy 22A, the German machine manufacturer, located in Neustadt- Fernthal, complemented it with a six-cavity mould from EMDE MouldTec to produce silicone nipples.

Matthias Sieverding - KraussMaffei

German machinery maker KraussMaffei Group is ready to tap into the fast-paced developments in automation and artificial intelligence in China, said Nadine Despineux, President of KraussMaffei’s new digital service solutions unit. “Last year, the highest investment in artificial intelligence was in China, while 40% of global robots were purchased in China last year.”

“China is an accelerator of our global digitalisation strategy,” she said, adding that the digital service unit was launched in 2018 under the firm’s Compass strategy.

The firm also took the occasion of Chinaplas to launch its eStore, said to be the first online solution store for injection moulding machines and robots in China. It offers machine and robot recommendations online based on the mould or part input, with the ordering function to be available soon.

FCS on the road to digitalisation; business expansion

Hank Wu

Taiwan’s machine maker Fu Chun Shin (FCS), which commemorated the 35th anniversary of its multicomponent moulding machine at Chinaplas, remains up-beat about business despite a slow first quarter, said Hank Wu, Marketing Manager. “We see business improving in Asia, since more companies are moving to countries like Vietnam with the US/China trade war.”

Furthermore, FCS is in the process of building its facility in Ahmedabad, India, which was announced last year. “We are still sourcing for a suitable plot of land for the building,” said Wu.

Meanwhile, FCS set up a recycling firm in Batam, Indonesia, this year. FCS RGP is a joint venture by FCS, Everrank and Royal Goalson, with an investment will be S$20 million. “FCS RGP mainly provides products made of recycled materials like pallets, trash cans and packaging materials. A majority (80%) of production will be exported to the US, Singapore and Malaysia, while 20% is for the Indonesian domestic market,” explained Wu.

As for its multicomponent machine, FCS first introduced the AE hybrid series 35 years ago and in 2004 launched the FB-140R for the mobile phone industry. Attesting to the quality, Wu said, “Even in 2018, some Korean customers still purchased the same model of dedicated two-component machine for mobile phones.” In 2016, FCS launched the upgraded dedicated toothbrush machine FB-600T, to replace the original nine single-colour machines (secondary moulding process), which not only saves half of the space, but also reduces manpower (three shifts from 24 persons to three persons). More importantly, the yield (from 95% to 99%) and efficiency are improved, according to Wu.

As for digitalisation, FCS introduced its iMF 4.0 Intelligent ManuFactory smart production management system last year. The iMF 4.0 system is based on the cycle time management and introduces the concept of mould, machine and material management, and OPC international communication protocol to achieve instant display of overall equipment efficiency information and abnormal message statistics.

At Chinaplas, it was showing its iMF system on the new FA advanced servo hydraulic model; while another FB-280T multi-component machine was shown producing three-colour toothbrush handle grips.

Expansions and growth in Asia/China

Michael Feltes

Engel’s Wintec subsidiary in China, set up in 2014 to offer a standard machine product, is on an expansion drive with an investment of EUR12 million in its Changzhou production facility. The new expansion to double the production capacity will be on line by the end of the year, said Michael Feltes, President Sales and Service, Engel Machinery.

Feltes pointed to growth of demand of Wintec machines from appliance manufacturers that have production operations in China, South Korea, Mexico and the US.

“There has been significant growth year-on-year, 60% coming from the automotive sector while in the white goods industry (24%), we saw significant growth from manufacturers of home appliances and washing machines,” he explained, adding that technical moulding occupies about 8% of the machine sales.

Meanwhile, Feltes expects large growth in the Wintec market from China to the export market. “Wintec machinery exports grew by 5% last year.” At Chinaplas, it showcased two servo-hydraulic twoplaten injection machines that offer a service life expectancy of 15 years and more if maintained, said Feltes.

Christoph Steger

On the other hand, Engel Chief Scientific Officer Christoph Steger said Engel had garnered a sales growth of 21% in Asia or EUR336 million, with 90% derived from local production and 960 people in employment in Engel Asia. “We expanded the facility in Shanghai in 2017, and have already filled up the production space since then,” he added.

With an emphasis of serving the Chinese market from a more R&D base to develop machines in China and export from the country, KraussMaffei is building a new plant in China that will double its capacity there, said Matthias Sieverding, President of Extrusion Technology.

Having started construction on the new plant in the city of Jiaxing in March this year, Sieverding said the company’s other plant in Haiyan, built in 2008, had become too small. The investment into the new 57,000 sq m facility forms part of its increased capital investment under its parent company, China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina). The firm will also double its staff to 700.

To come online in 2020, the Jiaxing plant will produce the company’s full range of equipment, including injection moulding machines, extruders, robots and polyurethane systems.

The new plant is KraussMaffei’s second expansion in China. Early this year, it converted a former ChemChina production site in Sanming to make a new line of PX Agile standardised all-electric injection moulding machines.


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