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Digital tech key to secure world supply chain

China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-05 09:39
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Visitors learn about a clean energy supply model of China National Petroleum Corp during the first China International Supply Chain Expo, which was held in Beijing from Nov 28 to Dec 2. WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY

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BEIJING — A Chinese steel mill moved the model of its smart workshop into the digital tech-themed exhibition hall of the first global supply chain expo late last week.

Instead of a smokestack plant, Nanjing Iron & Steel Co is making its manufacturing more digital and supplying more sophisticated and tailored components to its global customers.

Featuring "just in time and customer-to-maker", the new workshop, which started operations in 2020 with the support of robotics and digital virtual technology, can run with merely five workers per shift, said Xu Xiaochun, NISCO's executive president, at a seminar during the China International Supply Chain Expo, the first of its kind in the world devoted to promoting industrial and supply chain collaboration.

The expo was held in Beijing from Nov 28 to Dec 2.

NISCO, one of the exhibitors from traditional industries, defined itself as an innovation-driven enterprise, and set up shop in the expo's digital tech area.

A mixed reality helmet on display that can provide real-time digital assistance to workers has already been applied to its workshop.

"Our management has changed from an experience-driven one to a data-driven one. Through the intelligent algorithms and the industrial internet, the development cycle can be shortened and the collaborative efficiency of the industrial chain can be improved," said Xu.

NISCO's quality steel has been used in Saudi Aramco oil pipelines, Qatar's World Cup stadium, and Siemens' offshore wind power turbine, to name just a few.

Also at the expo was GZTech, a startup founded in 2018 that specializes in digitally controlled pulsed laser devices. The products it brought to the CISCE are mainly used in hard and brittle material processing, surface marking and cleaning.

"China used to import laser devices, now we have started to explore global markets with more affordable products," said Peng Yong, GZTech's global trade manager. "They are 50 percent cheaper and have equal quality."

Within a year, GZTech's sales increased from next to nothing to 20 million yuan ($2.8 million) in overseas markets in 2023, finding customers in the United States, Mexico, Turkiye, India and Germany.

"It's a small bite in this sector," said Peng. "But a diversified group of suppliers is definitely favorable for a secure global supply chain."

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