The battery industry has developed by leaps and bounds in the past two years, and its production capacity has expanded rapidly. How can manufacturing companies forge extreme manufacturing capabilities to match the quality and efficiency requirements of the TWh era? Ningde era lit up two lighthouse factories to provide direction for the industry chain leadership.
The Global Lighthouse Network project was initiated by the World Economic Forum to select world leaders who are good at adopting and integrating advanced technologies of the fourth Industrial revolution, and build a community platform for learning and sharing. At present, the number of lighthouse factories in the world has reached 132, and China is the country with the most lighthouse factories, reaching 50.
Lighthouse factories can use artificial intelligence, big data, 3D printing and other technologies on a large scale to improve efficiency and competitiveness, transform business models and promote economic growth, while enhancing labor force capabilities and protecting the environment, and promote the participation of manufacturers in various regions and industries study.
In the global lithium battery industry, there are only two selected lighthouse factories, both from CATL. In the lighthouse factories of the Ningde era, the application of digital technology has brought significant cost reduction effects, enhanced delivery capabilities, and reshaped the relationship between labor and production. Ningde era not only overcomes the “pilot trap”, allowing the technical experience of the lighthouse factory to replicate and flow internally, but also draws more nutrients with the help of the lighthouse network, and actively promotes the digital transformation of the upstream and downstream industrial chains.
What created the lighthouse factory, and what direction does the lighthouse factory illuminate? The Securities Times interview team recently walked into the Ningde era to show you how a battery was born and how a lighthouse was lit.
Ask advanced technology for answers
What is the length of a second? It is basically equivalent to the time for a heartbeat, and it is also the time for a production line in the Ningde era to produce a battery. Under such a production rhythm, the battery defect rate pursued by Ningde era is one billionth.
Such extreme manufacturing capabilities were bred in the two lighthouse factories of the Ningde era, and gradually expanded to more production bases around the world.
Ningde Times Headquarters Base and Sichuan Times Yibin Factory will be awarded the title of “Lighthouse Factory” in 2021 and 2022. The World Economic Forum commented that the Ningde era headquarters base has achieved a defect rate of only one billionth at a speed of 1.7 seconds to produce each set of batteries, and at the same time increased labor productivity by 75%, reducing annual energy consumption. On the basis of this, the Yibin factory realized a 17% increase in production line speed and a 17% reduction in the loss of efficiency.
This string of numbers is the response of CATL to industry challenges. The battery industry is moving towards the TWh era in large-scale expansion, requiring manufacturing capacity to go to the limit. Both power batteries and energy storage batteries need to be safer, more efficient, and more stable. The manufacturing industry usually uses PPM (one part per million) to indicate that there are one or two defective products per million products. This is already a world-class manufacturing level in the fields of automobiles and electronic products, and power batteries need to be further improved. Reduced to PPB (parts per billion) level.
The current battery field is full of competition, and the competition is becoming more and more fierce. The industry predicts that according to the current expansion speed planned by various companies, the battery industry may eventually move towards overcapacity, but this overcapacity will be reflected in structural overcapacity, and high-quality battery products will still be in short supply. Therefore, improving product quality has become an indispensable weapon for battery manufacturers to cope with competition.
“Expanding a production line with a production capacity of 2GWh to 10GWh or even higher, if it is just relying on equipment, it is not an upgrade. At the same time, digital technology must be truly effective, effective and reliable, rather than playing with concepts.” Ningde Times Intelligence Dr. Ma Lin from the manufacturing department told the Securities Times interview team that in the lighthouse factory, the degree of integration between different processes is higher, the standardization of drawing wires is stronger, the production cycle is faster, and unmanned is more thorough. Behind this is Capabilities such as invisible data models, system algorithms, and edge computing are being supported.
Take the coating process as an example. This process is a delicate task in the manufacture of battery pole pieces. It needs to evenly apply the stirred slurry to the foil with a thickness of only a few microns. The traditional coating process relies heavily on manual experience, and the debugging accuracy can only be dealt with by the “coating master” manual operation to deal with the instability of the coating process.
In this regard, Sichuan Shidai Yibin Factory has developed a closed-loop control algorithm for lithium battery processing technology, modeling and in-depth learning of various combination parameters of more than 1,000 powders and fluids, and realizing micron-level enveloping instant return of foil coating Restore the bath 1. Heat up the bath until the end of the day.
“We have found through calculations that the lighthouse factory has brought considerable cost reduction effects through technology applications, and at the same time guaranteed delivery capabilities. The delivery speed and quality have been recognized by many major international customers, which is also a potential benefit.” Marin express.
It is worth mentioning that the lighthouse factory is also changing the relationship between labor and production. The Securities Times interview team saw at the Ningde era headquarters base that the number of employees required on the production line of the lighthouse factory is very small, and only a few links such as manual sampling and equipment operation and maintenance still require employee participation.
“We don’t need people, people are still an important factor of production.” Marin said that the improvement of equipment automation is to empower people, liberate unnecessary repetitive labor, and at the same time generate more interdisciplinary talents. demand, “It turned out that our IT colleagues lacked understanding of manufacturing, and our manufacturing colleagues did not understand software algorithms. For this reason, we set up an intelligent manufacturing department as early as 2020 to focus on big data, artificial intelligence, equipment control, etc. In this way, we can enhance the professionalism and compoundness of the team.”
Overcoming the Pilot Trap
Let technical experience flow internally
In the process of digital transformation in the manufacturing industry, what is more difficult to break through than “from 0 to 1” is actually the process of “from 1 to n”.
According to the survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, about 70% of the enterprises find it difficult to overcome the “pilot trap”. Although these enterprises are actively investing in the application of advanced technologies, they may lack a reasonable organizational structure, or may not involve appropriate stakeholders, so that they cannot apply digital technologies on a large scale. In the end, the investment of a lot of manpower and material resources did not bring clear results.
Ningde era has more than 30 factories around the world. “Although the company has only declared two lighthouse factories, in fact, many digital technologies have been used in other bases, and they have even been used very well.” Marin said.
To replicate the experience of the lighthouse factory internally, CATL relies on an efficient operation team. Marin said that the speed of equipment construction and technology introduction is very fast, but the key is that the operation team needs to have strong execution, consistency and coordination. “When we were building the first lighthouse factory, colleagues from other bases They will all look at the advantages of this factory and how to learn from these technologies, instead of waiting for others to start synchronizing after the lighthouse factory is completed.”
In the process of large-scale application of new technologies, the two factories have also developed their own characteristics.
Marin participated in the construction process of the Lighthouse Factory of Ningde Times Headquarters Base. He believes that one of the characteristics of this factory is the improvement of human efficiency. Compared with consumer batteries, the production process of power batteries requires faster speed and fewer defects. The accuracy of traditional detection methods is low, so the factory introducesAITechnology-assisted manual cross-checking has significantly improved the accuracy rate; the application of advanced manufacturing technology has also fed back digital development, improving the simulation capabilities at the material, process, and equipment levels. The simulation work that originally took a week can now be done in one or two hours; In addition, the closed-loop control of the manufacturing chain has been completed, and a large amount of data deposited on the production line has been awakened, and the process can be improved and efficiency improved through model analysis.
While applying advanced technology, the Yibin factory adds a touch of green background. In addition to the title of “Lighthouse Factory”, the Yibin factory will also obtain a carbon neutral certification certificate in March 2022, becoming the world’s first zero-carbon battery factory. On the one hand, the realization of zero carbon is to use the local abundant water resources to increase the proportion of green electricity in the energy structure; on the other hand, digital technology also helps factories to “cut costs” and reduce energy consumption in the production process.
Equipment operation is a major energy consumer. Faced with hundreds of equipment on a cable, manual point-to-point operations often lose sight of one another and fail to respond in a timely manner. Sichuan Times has independently developed the CFMS system, and installed more than 40,000 environmental detection sensors in the factory area. Through the collection of narrow-band internet of Things, the global factory equipment is 100% monitored online, and their status parameters can be uploaded in real time, and the data can be realized. Quick interaction. The AI system optimizes the energy-saving scheme by calculating these data, and tailors the optimal operating parameters for each device.
In addition, in the Yibin factory, the application of digital technology has also spilled over to scenarios other than production. Ma Lin introduced that AI vision and other technologies were mainly used in product quality control, but now they have been extended to the entire factory operation level. For example, in terms of safety management, traditional patrol inspections can only rely on manpower, and on-site fixed-point random inspections are mainly used in flammable areas, with a high risk of missed inspections. In this regard, Sichuan Times uses video streaming + AI technology to break down the barriers between networks and systems. Through real-time video imaging, the system can automatically identify illegal operations, such as signboard mixing, channel occupancy, etc., and intelligently mark and save images.
Connect the network to connect the upstream and downstream
Empowering digital transformation
For manufacturing enterprises, the lighthouse factory is not only an honor, but also a symbol of influence and leadership. The network composed of global lighthouse factories has actually become a platform for learning and sharing, and at the same time, it has also driven more small and medium-sized enterprises to start digital transformation.
Lighthouse factories around the world belong to different fields, and Ningde era can use this network to enhance its manufacturing capabilities. Marin often goes to different lighthouse factories for research. For example, Intel’s Chengdu factory has the genes of foreign companies, and the employees’ recognition is relatively high. Marin will focus on learning the “soft power” of corporate management; at Bosch, he is more interested in its application based on digital twins. And the related training system; while Sany Group is a customer of CATL, and its focus is on collaboration in the production process, automated assembly, and quality control.
“We noticed a small detail during the visit. The tooling and fixtures on their production line will be placed in a traceable tray to Display the status of the parts inside in real time. The purpose is to improve the efficiency of assembly operations. This is the Ningde era. If we haven’t done it yet, we may also be able to inspire and improve in this regard.” Marin said.
Extending the network of lighthouse factories, CATL’s technical experience as a leading company is expected to drive the entire industrial chain. The domestic lithium battery industry chain has entered a period of rapid development in the past two years. The downstream terminal vehicle manufacturing link is relatively mature, and the accumulation of digitalization and intelligence is relatively rich, while the upstream lithium battery materials and other fields have become short boards in the industrial chain.
“The Ningde era is not only doing its own thing well, but also doing the work of empowering the upstream and downstream.” For example, Marin said that if the supplier’s testing system and the company are not unified, although the supplied products can meet the requirements, there will be comparisons. More waste products have a relatively large impact on production costs, which in turn affects the company’s procurement costs. Therefore, the company is also motivated to help suppliers build more efficient testing capabilities.
At the recent supplier conference, Ningde era put forward three expectations for suppliers, one is to increase investment in innovation and improve technical capabilities; the other is to continue to reduce costs and increase efficiency; Carbon reduction.
In the downstream, the transfer of technical experience can also enhance the stickiness between CATL and customers. “For example, the battery module needs to be inspected when it is loaded. The traditional method used to be the “three coordinates + manual inspection tool” inspection, but now CATL has adopted a full-vision solution. In the process of helping customers apply the new solution, the customer In addition to obtaining high-quality products, they also harvested technological output, and the cooperation between the two parties will be closer.” Marin said.
Since 2017, CATL has firmly ranked first in the world for power batteries. According to data from SNEResearch, a South Korean auto market research organization, from January to November 2022, CATL’s global power battery market share will reach 37.1%, which means that one out of every three electric vehicles in the world is equipped with CATL batteries.
Leading enterprises enjoy the halo, but also undertake the mission. Empowering the upstream and downstream and leading the manufacturing industry is the proper meaning of the “Lighthouse”, and it also corresponds to the original intention of the Ningde era. Marin said that there is no end to innovation, and the improvement of manufacturing capacity is also endless. “We need to be in awe of the lithium battery industry. Although we may have made some achievements now, we should also consider the next five years and the next one. 10-year direction. Therefore, we also hope to accept more advanced manufacturing concepts with an open mind and further enhance our capabilities, and the lighthouse factory is one of the ways to achieve it.”