Industrial artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity, digitization and a workforce prepared for smart manufacturing are “the core elements of Wisconsin manufacturing in the future,” according to Jay Lee, the top Foxconn official overseeing the company’s work in the state.
Lee, a Foxconn board member and vice chairman, said the company is working toward a culture of worry-free manufacturing in which data is processed and automatically analyzed to help humans address seemingly invisible issues, avoiding quality issues and productivity loss.
“That gives people a good edge to become more information driven, digital driven and also evidence driven, instead of just depending on their personal experience,” he said.
Lee spoke as part of the Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce Made in Wisconsin Luncheon on Wednesday. His remarks were scheduled prior to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. decision this week
that Foxconn would not qualify for state tax incentives and Lee was described on the program as a featured speaker on industrial artificial intelligence. He did not address the WEDC issue during his nearly 20-minute video presentation to the virtual event.
Despite the WEDC's decision to deny Foxconn tax credits, Missy Hughes, secretary and chief executive officer of WEDC, told BizTimes
that Foxconn has a vision that could help Wisconsin manufacturing grow by leaps and bounds.
“I think that a company that has a real forward vision and a desire to explore artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing and a sense that they don't want to be complacent with where we are today is really important for Wisconsin's future economy,” she said before noting that state incentive programs rely on specifics about job creation and planned investment.
“While Foxconn has an incredible vision for the future, we need it to be more concrete before we can really interact with it,” Hughes said.
Lee did not share many specifics on Foxconn’s Wisconsin plans during his WMC remarks. He did point to three industries – electric vehicles, health care and robotics – where the company is seeking to build platforms that other businesses could use for their own applications.
“We have to make manufacturing to fit the future society needs,” Lee said, pointing out that Foxconn’s initial Wisconsin plans focused on electronics, but the company has shifted to make masks and ventilators this year during the COVID-19 pandemic and is also developing smart medical systems.
“This is a very important transformation, we don’t just make things that people need, but we’re making things that protect people,” he said.
Foxconn is combining the EV, health care and robotics with three technologies – industrial artificial intelligence, 5G and semiconductors – as part of a 3+3 strategy, Lee said.
He said the company has developed in-house industrial AI capabilities to analyze its production data, especially for issues that may not be obvious and address them before an issue develops. The technology allows manufactures to move from a fail and fix approach to predicting and preventing issues.
The rise of 5G connectivity helps improve that analysis.
“The beauty of 5G is really about the sequencing and switching,” Lee said, noting a lot of manufacturing equipment has a cycle time delay of 10 milliseconds up to 200 milliseconds but that can be cut to 1 millisecond. “We can look at a small time interval behavior in order to understand the quality issues.”
[caption id="attachment_514047" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
Recent aerial photo of the Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. Shot by Curtis Waltz of aerialscapes.com[/caption]