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【Dow】Manufacturing in the Times of Artificial Intelligence

As China marks the beginning of a “New Era” in its development, the country’s top leadership is increasingly looking to the development of innovative advanced technologies as a powerful engine of future economic growth. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning offer the potential to reverse the recent trend of declining global productivity growth, transform traditional ways of creating value, and change the way we live, work, and communicate. The benefits of these technologies are especially clear in the manufacturing industry, where assembly lines could be transformed into hyper-connected production systems characterized by autonomous, self-organizing factories.

China has fully embraced the promise of the technologies behind the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, and in only a few short years has emerged as a global leader in promoting their growth and development. This focus has intensified in the past several years, as China’s top-level administrative bodies have released detailed blueprints outlining the country’s ambitious goals for future innovation and the practical applications of these technologies in manufacturing. In the “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” released in July 2017, the State Council established ambitious goals for the development of artificial intelligence technology and applications by 2030. Notably, the plan also highlighted the importance of developing artificial intelligence as the main driving force behind China’s industrial upgrading and economic transformation, and built on the goals outlined in the State Council’s “Made in China 2025” policy designed to make China a global center for advanced manufacturing.

While the technologies driving the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” offer bright prospects for the future of manufacturing, the disruption caused by these changes could also present great social and economic challenges. In the face of such potential change, it is essential for stakeholders across government, business, academia, and civil society to collaborate in order to ensure that the greatest level of economic and social benefit can be achieved. Dow is committed to supporting China’s efforts to maximize the value delivered by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence in manufacturing, and helping utilize disruption as an opportunity to retool and re-equip the industrial workforce by sharing our expertise and exploring partnerships in the following areas:

•     Innovation and Collaboration: China is seeking to develop a dynamic, innovation-driven growth model designed to reinvigorate the global economy. Innovation is a concept that is especially fundamental to the materials industry, which has vast potential for technological advancement, as it works to identify and solve problems facing the world. Our innovation- based partnerships with Chinese companies can provide policymakers with new models for collaboration and reform that help move industries up the value chain.

•     Digitalizing Supply Chains: Digitalizing supply chains increases efficiency, productivity and growth by creating integrated industrial and manufacturing ecosystems. Dow has long been an industry leader in promoting digitalization at every step along the supply chain, and we are harnessing the power of big data in manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics in the work we do every day.

•     Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: Amidst rapidly changing working conditions, manufacturing workers must be empowered to manage operations, and learn how to become innovators themselves to add greater value to existing industrial and production systems. Dow has developed a successful training model designed to create a 21st century workforce – from inspiring young minds to pursue studies in STEM subjects through youth programs to Dow’s renowned apprenticeship programs.

China has positioned itself at the forefront of the development and application of some of the world’s most important emerging technologies, and has established strong regulatory frameworks to support their continued advancement. The integration of these technologies into manufacturing processes promises to create both opportunities and challenges. By working together, Dow and industry partners can support the Chinese government in helping guide the development of advanced technologies and the transformation of the manufacturing industry in a way that produces broad-based, positive economic and societal impacts for China and the rest of the world.

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