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The Pulse of the Third Industrial Revolution

Monday, December 23, 2013

By: Chu Jiwang

The tide of the third industrial revolution characterized by I.T. is sweeping across the globe. I, an entrepreneur, cannot simply watch as a spectator. This January, I attended Automate 2013 in Chicago to experience a piece of the third industrial revolution.
The revolution in I.T. application has brought earth-shaking changes around the globe — I know from my own experience.

Thirty years ago, when I installed a telephone at home, my neighbors were all envious. Later, I founded my business, Ningbo Ruyi, and all my products were sold through Zhejiang Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Co., Ltd. (ZMEC). One day, I called a salesman and asked him to mail a contract to me. To my surprise, he replied, “Mail? Don’t you have a fax?” I was in the dark and asked my translator, “What’s a ‘fax’?” I soon bought a fax machine, and began sending contracts with my signature to Hangzhou, where the headquarters of ZMEC is stationed. It only took seconds: never so fast!

After a few years, my company began to conduct business via instant messaging and email, but I remained enamored by the fax. “Dad, people use cloud computing today,” my son once asserted. “Huh?” I muttered. I.T. has developed so fast that I’m too old to catch up.

My mind raced back 20 years to when I first visited Chicago and walked around in McCormick Place. My business was still small. To save money, I helped three coworkers move a hand hydraulic carrier to the elevator to exhibit it in an area of only nine square meters. Today, my products are displayed in a 200-square-meter space in the center of the exhibition hall, and my trademark glitters in the bright lights.

Nevertheless, I convinced myself not to rest on my laurels. I saw a large space for improvements in the details of my products. “How did you make it so fine?” I asked my foreign counterparts and found that they use robots instead of manual labor, both improving craftsmanship and minimizing costs.

The second industrial revolution in Europe and America took place a hundred years earlier than in China, laying a solid economic foundation for the rapid development in industry and economy. These regions are still leading the third industrial revolution. China has seen great progress in its economy thanks to the implementation of economic reform and opening up policies, now chasing the pace of developed countries. However, there is still a long way to go due to its foundation in many aspects. China’s industrial pattern needs to be improved because most of the sectors are still extensive and labor-intensive.

What shall we do then in the third industrial revolution?
Different companies should formulate different plans for future development. Big labor-intensive companies should try more innovative ways to transform, while hi-tech enterprises should waste no time participating in the third industrial revolution so they can catch up and lead the world in economics and technology.

“One of the best features of the third industrial revolution is robotic production,” my son asserted, which I saw with my own eyes at Automate 2013 in Chicago.

A special area of the exhibition showcased robotic workers welding, assembling and dissembling, delivering coke and beer, and even helping a doctor with a test tube operation. My eyes confused: I was wandering an unmanned world, a better place created by the third industrial revolution.

Chu Jiwang is president and founder of the Ningbo Ruyi Joint Stock Co., Ltd., a major Chinese logistics equipment manufacturer. More than just an entrepreneur, Chu is a recipient of the China Charity Award, the top philanthropic honor in the country. In each issue, he shares his business insights and inspirations gained from his life experience.

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