Samsung, South Korea Team Up To Build Robots That Will Replace Human Workers

An article published on October 21st, 2015 in the Tech Times, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/97472/20151021/samsung-south-korea-team-up-to-build-robots-that-will-replace-human-workers.htm, describes how Samsung has received an investment of $14.8 million from the government of South Korea to develop robots that can perform complex tasks in factories and compete with the cheap labor rates of China. Many smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, are dependent on cheap Chinese labor for manufacturing many of their products. However, the increasing labor costs of Chinese workers has been negatively affecting many of these company’s profits. Increasing labor costs in China is one of the main reasons why Samsung is making the switch to automated factories. The South Korean Ministry stated, “Once affordable robots reach the market and are more widely used, it can lead to the creation of ‘smart factories’ and bring about far-reaching innovations to the manufacturing sector.” In 2014 robot sales increased by 29% over 2013 and were at their highest level ever at 229,261 units. Even with that, only 10% of manufacturing processes are done by robots, but that number is estimated to double by 2025. The South Korean Ministry is claiming that if Samsung successfully develops robots that can perform complex human tasks, then the dependence on cheap Chinese labor will decrease over time, not only in South Korea but also in other parts of the world.

Will Samsung be able to develop robots to successfully manufacture smart phones? If so, what impact will that have on the smartphone and tablet industries? What impact will this have on the Chinese manufacturing sector? Is this the fate of any other future industries?

TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP Benefits to U.S. Agriculture

An article published on October 16th, 2015 by the United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.fas.usda.gov/sites/default/files/2015-10/tpp_details_alcohol_10-16-15.pdf, describes how the TPP will provide significant new market opportunities for United States exporters. The TPP will promote economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which will increase the demand for U.S. food and agriculture products. In specific, the TPP strengthens trade rules and provides new market access for US exports to Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Brunei. Without the TPP, US alcohol exports to the TPP region face a competitive disadvantage and are subject to many duties and tariffs. The US exported $579 million of wine, $359 million of beer, and $539 million of distilled spirits to countries in the TPP region in 2014. Of that, the US exported $2.9 million in alcoholic beverages to Malaysia. Malaysia’s current import duties for wine range from $2.08-$25.58 per liter, for beer are $1.18 per liter, and for distilled spirits they range from $0.71-$22.04 per liter. Under the current agreement, all of the import duties for alcoholic beverages entering into Malaysia will be eliminated 16 years after the agreement is ratified. This could have a significant impact not only on the Malaysian and the United States economy, but also on all of the other countries that Malaysia imports their alcoholic beverages from.

What impact will this have on Malaysia’s economy? How will Malaysia’s domestic alcohol industry be affected by the TPP? Will the US and other countries have an opportunity to export significantly more alcohol to Malaysia?

The Push for Smart Manufacturing

In the article “Five Trends Driving the Movement Toward Smart Manufacturing” (http://www.sdcexec.com/article/11669309/five-trends-driving-the-movement-toward-smart-manufacturing), the top five trends behind the surge of smart manufacturing, and their descriptions, are analyzed. The first of the five trends is “distributed manufacturing.” In the manufacturing industry today, many companies outsource their critical manufacturing process to third parties. This often creates instances of miscommunication, loss of products, or other manufacturing mishaps. With a centralized hub that smart manufacturing provides, verifying all processes being conducted would be effortless and communication problems would be avoided. Smart Manufacturing also instills the ability to do virtual manufacturing, in which “demand fluctuations in Asia can trigger demand signals to devices and parties all the way up to n-tier suppliers.” The third trend analyzed is a “thirst for data and visibility. Essentially, this entails the ability to monitor and track product progress and location in real time. “Managing by Exception” is the fourth trend proposed in this article, and is characterized by the ability to automate process, flag issues, and escalate as necessary. While human interaction will still be needed to solve many of these problems, finding and monitoring progress of these mishaps can be done quickly and more effectively. Lastly, 3D printing is the fifth trend proposed. 3D printing effectively gives the manufacturer the ability to create custom products at a faster and more efficient pace.

Why Smart Manufacturing?

In the article “What is Smart Manufacturing” (http://www.cmtc.com/blog/what-is-smart-manufacturing-part-1a-of-6), the author provides a great overview of smart manufacturing and the benefits of utilizing this new technology. The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, or SMLC, defines smart manufacturing as “the ability to solve existing and future problems via an open infrastructure that allows solutions to be implemented at the speed of business while creating advantaged value.” In more simple terms, smart manufacturing is using real time technology and data to complete a predetermined task. With this connection between the physical and virtual worlds, the manufacturing industry is open to an infinite number of potential positive changes. For example, the industry can be optimized to create “higher quality products, improve productivity, increase energy efficiency, and sustain safer plant floors.” The article also stipulates that smart factories will boost employment 2-4 times, with jobs becoming available in both the “direct manufacturing and non-manufacturing positions.” What are the benefits for the manufacturer? Smart Manufacturing gives manufacturers the ability to improve their “performance, products, and design,” and also “offers the ability to collaborate with suppliers, both upstream and downstream, more effectively.”

What’s the big deal?

An article in The Economist (March 28th 2015) titled “What’s the big deal?” (http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21647330-why-whiff-panic-has-entered-americas-pacific-trade-negotiations-whats-big-deal) describes the main characteristics of the interesting TPP agreement and its major constraints. The TPP is to be a “21st-century” agreement, involving relevant reforms in areas such as intellectual property, the treatment of state-owned companies and environmental and labor standards. Another interesting fact is that the deal involves economies at very different stages of development, from Peru and Chile to America and Australia. The struggle to close the deal has been affected by the strategic competition between America and China for regional influence. Will this competition prevent the TPP from becoming more attractive to the 12 members and their diverse economies?

From Smart Manufacturing to Manufacturing Smart

An article in Automation World (January 6, 2014) titled “From Smart Manufacturing to Manufacturing Smart” (http://www.automationworld.com/sensors-discrete/smart-manufacturing-manufacturing-smart) describes the impact of intelligent manufacturing on economic growth and competitiveness. Smart manufacturing and the powerful data analysis capacity is intended to change the way products are invented, manufactured, shipped and sold. Smart manufacturing is also associated to a network of sensors in the factory floor that will not only increase productivity but also improve worker safety while protecting the environment. Moreover, the use of smart devices will drive a new wave of digitization that will re-invent the manufacturing industry. Will the inter-connectivity of systems grow not only within a firm but also along its business partners to strengthen the links in the supply chain?

Drones: Shaping the Internet of Things

In a recent article on the website sUAS News, the potential for drones as the driving force for the internet of things is highlighted. The internet of things (IoT) is based on the central idea that devices and humans can talk to one another and relay and report information. This is done primarily through sensors “at rest” that gather information and relay it to a back end data collection center which can then be interpreted for the end user. This simple idea is quickly being incorporated to drones which are capable of a myriad of functions and provide a highly mobile component. As drones become more complex, being able to integrate them into our everyday functions and processes is becoming an increasing trend. How will unmanned drones shape the IoT? What are some of the benefits of the mobile function that drones can provide to the IoT? What types of industries will most benefit from this technology?