Industry 4.0: BenQ
‘Taiwan’s Siemens’ Taking Shape
Multitasking production lines, machines that talk to each other, smart transporters that can call their own elevators – these futuristic scenes have become reality in Taiwan as the BenQ Group strives to emulate German giant Siemens.
‘Taiwan’s Siemens’ Taking ShapeBy Shu-ren Koo
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 601 )
After quite some time out of the spotlight, BenQ is keeping a low profile as it concentrates on the goal of becoming like Siemens—a factory that serves other Industry 4.0 smart factories.
Drawing on years of factory digitalization managerial experience and integrating hardware and software solutions from its members, the BenQ Group endeavors to set up a model Industry 4.0 factory capable of “low volume, highly diversified production” and “preventive maintenance” at its member company Qisda’s facility in Guishan Township, Taoyuan.
On the factory’s display production line, a worker stands before an LCD monitor that can rapidly switch between different screens showing operational data for various products, reducing line changeover time by up to 40 percent.
Each machine in the facility is outfitted with an array of sensors and is linked to others through a network, so that the machines can communicate with each other.
Alongside the production line, one after another orange “smart transporter” carries raw materials and products along the aisle, relying on sensors as well as positioning and networking devices to communicate with different machines. They then automatically deliver goods to a designated position, and can even call an elevator for pickup.
The array of sensors and networking devices also monitor the production line at all times, collecting production data and uploading it to a cloud-based platform for Big Data analysis, so that it can detect and anticipate possible flaws on the line, averting unexpected shutdowns, which is in line with the Industry 4.0 precept of “preventive maintenance.”
In a “Cloud Situation Room” filled with monitors, the staff stays on top of conditions throughout the production lines.
In contrast to the double-digit decline in revenue at two of Taiwan’s major display panel manufacturers last year, Qisda displays increased its turnover by over a billion NT dollars in 2015. Qisda president Peter Chen credits this increase to the 30-percent improvement in production efficiency resulting from the remaking of the Guishan plant into a smart production facility
In addition to its own networking, Qisda has also linked up with most of its suppliers.
Consumer electronics product manufacturers and downstream customers have networked together for years to effectively respond to the rapidly changing consumer market and reflect sales channel demands to the minute. However, networking with upstream suppliers is rare, not to mention significantly more difficult.
“There might be just over a dozen customers, but there could be several hundred suppliers, or even more than a thousand suppliers,” says Chen. The advantage of networking with suppliers is the mitigation of inventory management issues.
Taking the example of a supermarket selling sashimi and nigiri-sushi, Chen explains that, in order to clear out raw fish that would be unsalable the following day, the supermarket’s fresh produce and meat department slashes the price in half each evening at around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. This, in turn, greatly cuts into profits.
However, if the supermarket could anticipate how many customers would come and purchase raw fish products, it could reduce the likelihood of imbalanced supply and demand.
Qisda’s display and projector assembly line uses real-time monitoring and data analysis, so that when the system predicts a material shortage at a particular time in the future, it immediately notifies suppliers via the network to replenish the materials at that time. This eliminates the need to stock up on materials on site. As a result of this system, inventory at the Guishan facility has been reduced by 30 to 50 percent, while capital and space management costs have also been greatly reduced.
“In order to extract useful things out of the data, first you must connect all the systems,” Chen says.
Facing the rise of China’s “Red Supply Chain”, Chen is adamant that implementation of Industry 4.0 and low-volume, highly diversified production is the only way ahead for Taiwanese manufacturing. “Leave high-volume production to the Chinese factories,” he says.
In addition to making its own production facilities smart, BenQ also wants to market and sell its know-how, helping the Taiwanese manufacturing industry make the leap to Industry 4.0. The Qisda plant in Guishan is the group’s showcase for these ambitions.
T.L. Tseng, general manager of Qisda's Business Solution Group, says that six divisions from three companies under the group umbrella – including BenQ Guru – are engaged in smart solutions development. Plans are underway for the integration of the six divisions into a single company.
Where the group lacks technical know-how and capabilities, it will consolidate other companies’ strengths in these areas through investment and share acquisition. Further, like Siemens, it will establish a corporate alliance headed by BenQ to be dedicated to the development and sale of Industry 4.0 solutions.
Chen says that Industry 4.0 is more like gang warfare than boxing. “The Industry 4.0 age forever changes business models, necessitating alliances,” he says.
Translated from the Chinese article by David Toman
Qisda at a Glance
Qisda Corporation (member of the BenQ Group)
Main Products: ODM and OEM of consumer, commercial, and medical electronics products
2015 Revenue: NT$133.1 billion