Vol.6 Special Interview
Shenzhen Flat Panel Display Industry Association × CLPA
Automation Technology: the Key to Enhancing the Shenzhen FPD Industry
Medium to small-sized manufacturers face the issue of production
management in their rapid development
Shenzhen is known as a leading area in China's flat panel display (FPD) industry. We asked Xie Zhengcai, Secretary-General of the Shenzhen Flat Panel Display Industry Association (SDIA), an organization of related corporations, to discuss the latest trends in China's FPD industry. The interviewers were Naomi Nakamura, Global Director of the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA), which promotes the widespread adoption of industrial open networks CC-Link and CC-Link IE, and CLPA Director of Technology Haruyuki Otani.
NakamuraTell us about the role of the SDIA.
XieThe Shenzhen Flat Panel Display Industry Association, which was established in 2005, currently has about 750 FPD-related manufacturers in its membership. Members include not only manufacturers from the Huanan region, which includes Shenzhen, but also from other regions of China and from overseas, allowing us to act as a unified contact point for the industry. The Shenzhen area is noted for the large number of small- and medium-sized FPD manufacturers there. In order to increase industry vigor, it is also our role to support them. For example, we help small- and medium-sized manufacturers build supply chains, and introduce to them the technologies that increase their productivity and quality so as to allow them to compete with major companies.
In fact, one of our essential technologies for the increase of productivity and quality is automation. Naturally, we are familiar with CC-Link and CC-Link IE as well. They are widely used by major manufacturers like Foxconn, I believe. OtaniBecause of their high performance, CC-Link and CC-Link IE tend to be considered industrial networks for large-scale manufacturers, but that is by no means their only role. The increase of productivity and quality is an issue common to the manufacturing industry as a whole, regardless of company scale. There are, in fact, quite a number of small- and medium-sized manufacturers who have introduced CC-Link and CC-Link IE. Many examples of its significant effect are available. XieSmall- and medium-sized manufacturers in Shenzhen have not been oblivious to productivity and quality until now. The reality is that, while wanting to increase their productivity and quality, they did not know how to go about it. The industry is in need of technology that will increase productivity and quality. OtaniThe Ethernet-based CC-Link IE has been widely adopted across the Asian region, including the BOE Technology Group, China's largest FPD manufacturer. We have many partners in China to whom we provide solutions using CC-Link IE as well. Setting up liquid crystal display production lines using CC-Link and CC-Link IE should be quick and easy. Because it can be constructed with general-use devices, quick response to line expansion is also possible. This kind of easy handling should be popular among small- and medium-sized manufacturers, I feel. XieWherever they are, small- and medium-sized manufacturers hope to mature into major companies. However, no matter how quickly they develop, if their methods are the same as those used when they were smaller, they will eventually hit a wall. They need to increase competitiveness while changing their manufacturing system rapidly in accordance with their development. NakamuraCC-Link and CC-Link IE maintain the No. 1 share among industrial open networks, not only in Japan but in the whole of Asia. We feel that this is due to positive assessment of their easy construction. In particular, the existence of CC-Link IE is notable at FPD production sites. The fact is, CC-Link IE was originally developed with FPD manufacturers' production sites in mind. As the glass substrates used for FPD production become larger, the amount of data handled on site is increasing astronomically. In accordance with this, broadband networks that can handle these large-capacity data transfers are now required. CC-Link IE was developed with responding to these demands in mind. This is why it has been widely adopted in the FPD industry.
"The purpose of automation is not reducing personnel costs but leveling"
XieAt the moment, manufacturers in Shenzhen find that production management is not keeping up with their rapid development. This means that for many companies, while sales are increasing, profits are not keeping pace. More manufacturers are trying to use data to increase production efficiency, but many still don't even keep track of data to begin with. This situation has to be changed.
Of course, there are companies like Foxconn which picked up on the importance of production management at an early stage. We hope they will become the models, and that similar systems will spread among small- and medium-sized companies over the next four to five years, boosting automation through the entire Shenzhen FPD industry. OtaniAutomation is also an issue directly related to management. In order to hold out in the industry as personnel costs rise, automation is the only way. One might say that the background of the global success of the Korean FPD industry is that they automated using cutting-edge technology like CC-Link and CC-Link IE, working to increase productivity and quality.
On the other hand, reducing personnel costs is just one role of automation. Automation is not just a simple process of replacing people with machines in order to hold down costs. Its real purpose is the leveling of production through its daily major fluctuations. By keeping control of uneven production through leveling, oversupply of facilities and inventory becomes unnecessary. XieI hope to educate manufacturers about the importance of leveling production through automation, and the advantages of stabilizing quality.
"Highly reliable quality, Made-in-Japan"
NakamuraDo take note as well that CC-Link and CC-Link IE are technologies originating in Japan, where quality is a major concern. For example, all CC-Link and CC-Link IE products undergo rigorous testing. Mutual connectivity is of the highest importance when selecting networks. When a product boasting of its standard compliance can be used with some products but not others, users have trouble. CC-Link and CC-Link IE, requiring strict testing for standard approval, may seem daunting to product vendors, but they provide major benefits to users. XieFor Shenzhen's manufacturers to take the next step toward becoming major companies, total automation of production is essential. For this purpose as well, we look to CC-Link and CC-Link IE technology. Shenzhen's FPD industry may seem to be thriving, but some of its companies have a sense of crisis to the effect that further development is going to be difficult. In actual fact, there is no future for the industry without greater adoption of cutting-edge technology. With the help of the CC-Link Partner Association and others like it leading the way to widespread adoption of cutting-edge technologies like CC-Link and CC-Link IE, I hope to offer support to Shenzhen's FPD manufacturers. NakamuraWe look forward to lending a hand in any way we can. We plan to continue actively making information available through the Shenzhen Display Association. Thank you very much for your time.
Xie ZhengcaiShenzhen Flat Panel Display
Industry Association Secretary-General
Naomi NakamuraCC-Link Partner Association
Haruyuki OtaniCC-Link Partner Association
Director of Technology
- CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)