On October 15th, 2020, at a section of railway under construction in Fujian Province, China, Mr. Zhang, an equipment manager, was baffled by a malfunctioning pump truck which failed to accelerate and operate. Time was ticking but the source of the malfunction was still unknown. After failed attempts of field repairs, Zhang called in a service request on the mobile application “Client Cloud”. A while later, a team of SANY service engineers, dispatched by the ECC (Electric Control Center), arrived on the scene and retrieved the truck’s IoT operating data from the system and made a preliminary diagnosis: “No error was detected in the data, and the problem likely occurred in the control module.” Using AR (augmented reality) technology, a remote group consultation was then conducted with the participation of technical experts hundreds of miles away. The fault was discovered within thirty minutes: the speed sensor was overloaded and needed to be replaced. “The digitized troubleshooting process cut down on the problem-solving time by over seventy percent compared to the traditional practice, which used to be a several-hour-long investigation of the filter element, oil and engine,” said Zhang.
One day during the 2020 Spring Festival holidays, locked down in his hometown due to COVID-19, Mr. Cao received a call from the SANY service center telling him that, based on the analysis by his machines’ “health model”, the bucket shaft sleeves on his three SY485 excavators were at a high risk of damage given the workloads recorded during the recently paused mining project and, therefore, maintenance and part replacements were recommended. Upon notice, Cao booked services and ordered spare parts on the client side of the mobile application “Easy Service”, with which he can track the progress of all the logistics and services. When the mining work resumed, his excavators were the only ones able to work at full force while many others were worn down due to shortages in spare parts supplies due to the pandemic. “Fault warning and optimization reporting really helped eliminate many hidden dangers,” said Cao.
These are two scenarios which show how SANY’s “digitized service” works. Digital applications have become ubiquitous not only in the service sector but in all aspects of the company’s operations and business.
Speaking of SANY’s resolve on digitization, many in China will recall the statement, “Either say goodbye to the past, or say goodbye to the industry,” made by Chairman Liang Wengen of SANY group during China’s National People's Congress back in 2018. However, ten years earlier in 2008, when the concept of “digitization” was still far from reality for most heavy-equipment industry members, SANY took a first step forward, incorporating the use of intelligent welding robots. This was followed by another milestone in 2013 when SANY put forward its “Internet+” strategic blueprint. Then in 2018, when Wengen made the famous aforementioned live-or-die statement, digitization was not just a fresh proposal or a motto for SANY but already a reality in the company’s entire process of operations encompassing procurement, research and development, manufacturing, sales, equipment data collection, feedback and service. As this article is being written, SANY’s level of “smart” technology is on par with that of Caterpillar.
By Wengen’s standards, a smart and digitized SANY should have achieved at least the three following key factors: all core business operations are conducted online, all internal management is software-based, and a large proportion of intelligent products are offered. In other words, smart connections are to be established between SANY and all our customers, dealers, suppliers and employees. The digital reform is also taking place at the levels of culture and knowledge, with a select collection of must-reads and must-watches on digitization and intelligent manufacturing being recommended to all SANY employees, mentally preparing them for a digital future.
Today, the No.18 Lighthouse factory, which represents SANY’s many smart factories, and ROOTCLOUD, the world's leading industrial IoT (IIoT) platform, are two pillars supporting SANY’s digitized manufacturing. Exemplifying a new version of the workshop in the digital era, the No.18 factory is like a conscious, living being with mechanical operating arms and a large computing brain that records, archives and analyzes every detail of every manufacturing process, quality control operation and laborer input. Being the largest intelligent manufacturing workshop in Asia and SANY’s general assembly workshop, the No.18 factory integrates multiple assembly lines for concrete machinery, road machinery, port machinery and more, covering one hundred square kilometers or sixty-two square miles.
This digitized super manufacturing center transformed the traditional model of discrete manufacturing and centralized assembly into “mixed-model assembly”, which saves space, material and human resources and therefore substantially simplifies manufacturing processes. The number of SANY Group employees has been reduced by over 20,000 since 2012, when the No.18 factory, SANY’s first smart factory, was built.
Consisting of six functional areas, an assembly area, a high-precision machining area, a structural components area, a stereoscopic warehouse and a landscaped area, the factory automates to a great extent all links involved in the manufacturing process, realizing unmanned material cutting, intelligent sorting, automatic welding, unmanned machining, intelligent painting and personalized customization. Following are the typical working scenes inside the venue: a single worker handling the supply of materials and spare parts to all stations; smart welding robots equipped with a visual recognition module to distinguish and weld materials automatically; numerous heavy AGVs (automated guided vehicles) loaded with materials, streaming across the premise; and new employees learning the assembly operations through VR and 3D teaching devices. Automation leads to an incredible increase in productivity; for example, a pump truck can be manufactured within one hour and an excavator within five minutes.
ROOTCLOUD, an IoT and IIoT platform service supplier that grew out of SANY’s IoT business unit, is an embodiment of SANY’s ambition of “hatching an IIoT project outside of SANY”. It originated with SANY but the latter is merely an investor, aiming to continue financing and broadening its ownership structure.
In the global wave of the industrial revolution 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been introduced as a new infrastructure to some pioneering countries and proven effective. This set an example for China’s manufacturers, who felt a growing urge to keep up and called for a capable industry insider to forge a low-threshold IIoT platform in China to which all Chinese manufacturers, including medium and small ones, can gain easy access. This is how SANY’s ROOTCLOUD came into being, which is positioned as a public and independent third-party IIoT platform.
Interconnected within this platform are manufacturing equipment and devices, the data of which is collected and analyzed to show their detailed running status and provide optimized operation and management solutions accordingly to owners and operators. It supports over 400 industrial protocols which enable connectivity to a series of PLCs, computer numerical controlled (CNC) routers, sensors, and special devices from OEMs. By September 2020, 720,000 units of equipment were included in the platform, empowering eighty-one sub-sector industries and covering assets worth RMB500 billion. For owners, an average investment of a few hundred RMB for each unit or device can offer ten to fifty percent potential growth in profit―the magic of digitization.
At Mobile World Congress 2019, the world’s first unit of a 5G teleremote controlled excavator made its debut. This was a next-generation model jointly developed by SANY, Huawei and Henan Yuexin Intelligent Machinery. The world’s first 5G application in mining machinery attracted flocks of guests through an on-site teleremote control demonstration.
One thousand milometers away, hydraulic SANY excavators in the unmanned Sandaozhuang moly mine operated by China Molybdenum in Luanchuan County, Henan are being remotely controlled simultaneously from both the main operations center at the mining site and from Shanghai at the 2019 MWC show. The machines performed a complete course of complicated operations including digging, 180-degree turns and loading, drawing rounds of applause after each operation was done with perfect precision and dexterity.
Cutting-edge digital technologies have been SANY’s main focus. The “unmanned” concept is becoming the new normal in all of SANY’s product lines, as driverless truck mixers, driverless heavy trucks and driverless container trucks have rolled off the lines, equipped with sensors which collect working data for analysis.
Two examples of SANY’s latest autonomous machines are the autonomous road machine fleet and the electric unmanned wide-body mining truck. Learn more about their updates at https://www.sanyglobal.com/press_releases/673/ (road machine fleet) and https://www.sanyglobal.com/press_releases/647/ (wide-body mining truck).
Digitized marketing, sales and service
The two scenarios in the opening paragraph are not isolated cases but the epitome of the company’s thoroughly digitally-reformed service sector. SANY’s 2020 Service Tour, an annual global service campaign, differed from previous ones in that the examination of all 20,000 serviced excavator units were autonomously conducted with the OBD (on-board diagnostics) system. Labor costs were halved but speed was doubled. This unprecedented approach has reformed the way service is carried out across the industry. With a database of 480,000 units of active SANY machines, SANY service engineers have shifted their customer service approach from reactive to proactive by spotting or anticipating equipment faults in advance and extending support to resolve them. An example of this approach is the 2020 SANY annual service campaign in Indonesia. Learn more about it at https://www.sanyglobal.com/press_releases/672/.
On the client side of the “Client Cloud” platform, all relevant information and resources needed by machine owners is integrated, including supervision of working conditions, spare part supply, repair and maintenance requests, project seeking, operator hiring and customer community. For the convenience of machine owners, a corresponding dynamic digital model is created of each newly-purchased unit, displaying all key operating parameters such as engine speed, oil pressure and fuel level, along with analytical reports, operation suggestions and warnings based on these parameters.
Digitized this and that...
Apart from the above, SANY has been working on the application of ERP-based supply chain management and smart design software for research and development.
In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, digitization has become a general trend of the times. Rather than a “should”, it is a must for manufacturers who want to survive in the new era. In fact, enterprises like GE, Siemens and Bosch have experienced the shift from industrial manufacturing to “industrial intelligence plus intelligent manufacturing”. For heavy equipment manufacturers like SANY, the vision of intelligent manufacturing should be built on a firm foundation: a comprehensive digital upgrade applied to the entirety of the enterprise, including management, service, marketing and sales. In this sense, SANY has set an example for those to come after.