10M+ phones a year, untouched by humans

The 80,000-square-meter (860,000-sq-ft) facility, located in the Changping district on the northeast outskirts of Beijing, follows a pilot smart factory in Yizhuang, which produced about a million units a year of the company’s Mix Fold smartphone.

“There are 11 production lines,” says Xiaomi Founder and CEO Lei Jun in a short video, embedded below. “100% of the key processes are automated. We developed our entire production and manufacturing software to achieve this.”

The new factory will produce Xiaomi’s upcoming foldable phones, the MIX Fold 4 and the MIX Flip – to be released later this month – spitting them out at a rate of about one every three seconds, 24/7.

According to GizmoChina, it maintains a totally clean manufacturing environment, with micron-level dust removal – which would explain the operating-theater-style gowns and caps worn by the small number of humans working in the ‘war room’ of the Smart Factory in a second video, shown below.

Totally automated “lights out” factories, of course, have been around a little while. Japanese robotics company Fanuc Ltd, for example, opened its first fully automated line back in 2001, and according to CNN Money, by 2003 it had a factory near Mt Fuji in which robots were building other robots, around 50 a day, running totally unsupervised for up to a month at a time.

But Xiaomi may have taken things up a notch, by allowing the AI brain of the factory to autonomously develop and optimize its processes over time.

“What’s most impressive,” says Lei Jun, “is that this platform can identify and solve issues, while also helping to improve the production process. That’s really incredible! This platform blew our colleagues away when they first saw it.”

A Weibo post expands on this, one section translating roughly to the following: “the 100% self-developed ‘Xiaomi Pengpai Intelligent Manufacturing Platform’ is the brain of the factory, injecting soul into the factory, allowing the entire factory to have self-perception, self-decision-making, and self-execution capabilities, and can independently diagnose equipment problems, improve process flows, and realize full-scenario digital management from raw material procurement to delivery, becoming a true smart factory that can evolve by itself.”

Pretty remarkable stuff, and certainly a taste of what’s coming worldwide.

Source: Lei Jun

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