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IEKView:Turnaround:Regaining Momentum for Advanced Manufacturing
 

In recent years, fierce global competition with pressure to boost domestic economy and employment has led many countries to develop new strategies for their manufacturing sectors.

For instance, the US is adopting an Advanced Manufacturing (AM) strategy along with its advantages in shale gas/oil to promote re-industrialization and induce offshore manufacturing jobs to return to America. Germany has started the “Industry 4.0” project to develop next-generation manufacturing systems for the fourth industrial revolution. China is leveraging its large domestic market to attract global investment for upgrading its manufacturing and technological capabilities. Meanwhile, South Korea continues its efforts to upgrade its position from fast follower to technology innovator, with many of its consumer brands taking commanding positions in international markets.

To explore this issue and its influence, last year the Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK) of ITRI published an in-depth research booklet, “Turnaround: Regaining Momentum for Taiwan’s Advanced Manufacturing Sector.” IEK indicates that Taiwan’s manufacturing sector is gradually losing its past advantages in traditional and high-tech industries, and is now in pressing need of a fundamental transformation that can give it a new outlook. Furthermore, IEK has proposed strategies such as building “Smart Manufacturing Headquarters” for global operations, and integrating with native “Economic Realms of Lifestyles,” hoping Taiwan can build the momentum to fundamentally transform the positioning and outlook of its manufacturing industries.

Establishing Smart Manufacturing Headquarters To Strengthen Taiwan’s Global Operations
Taiwan’s stagnating growth in exports and declining industry value-add has driven the creation of several government programs for industry transformation and upgrade, including shifting from hardware technology to software development, and moving into branding and service businesses. For example, incentives were offered to encourage offshore manufacturing operations by Taiwan enterprises to return home, and the expansion of the “Free Economic Pilot Zones (FEPZs)” is underway to attract domestic and foreign investment. However, among these efforts, there are major strategic issues yet to be resolved to reshape the manufacturing industry: How to best adapt to the limitation in environmental resources? How to create new value-added that global competitors cannot easily replace or diminish? And how to develop lifestyle brands which lead the global trends? These are all new challenges that must be tackled for repositioning Taiwan’s value-add in the global manufacturing value chain.

Although Taiwan missed a good chance to establish itself as “Asia-Pacific Manufacturing Operations Hub” in the early 2000s, it should still strive to achieve a 2020 vision to become the “Smart Manufacturing Headquarters.” With advanced manufacturing technology, the overseas operations will move toward high productivity and low labor intensity, while the headquarters’ increased demand for management and R&D personnel will create more local jobs.

There are three basic advantages that Taiwan can leverage to build “Smart Manufacturing Headquarters.”  First, Taiwan companies have many years of experience as OEM/ODM suppliers for multinational brands. They have developed low-cost, highly flexible, and intelligent capabilities for integrated manufacturing. Second, Taiwan has a comprehensive industrial infrastructure to support the establishment of manufacturing headquarters for overseas operations. Third, Taiwan is one of the few Asian countries with a diverse combination of cultures that can help domestic companies attract international talents for their marketing and management operations.

Through the integration of diversity, Taiwan can turn the tide by leveraging its “Small is Beautiful” advantage. Consolidating “cross-disciplinary systems” among different industries and technologies could help upgrade vulnerable industries. By testing new business models for “cross-regional experimentation,” different municipal resources and features can be coordinated to promote a clustering strategy.

Integrating Economic Realms Of Lifestyles To Spark High Value-added Innovation Ecosystems
A new direction for Taiwan’s manufacturing transformation should align with emerging global trends of “Service-based Applications Ecosystems,” in which system platforms, value-add applications, operation services, and cultural innovations are all integrated into the traditional industrial value chain. How to increase consumers’ stickiness to the product and service will be critical to success in these ecosystems. By establishing multiple regions of “Economic Realms of Lifestyles” to focus on service related applications for consumers, Taiwan can provide quality services to demonstrate its cultural characteristics and lifestyle to the world. Underneath these services, Taiwan can leverage its traditional advantages in technology and products to build ecosystems which could cultivate new business models, develop high value-added innovations, and integrate system solutions. It is a major paradigm shift in mindset from “Made in Taiwan” to “Life in Taiwan” with service models for consumers to lead product and technology development strategy.

“Life in Taiwan” can cover eight lifestyle aspects: food, fashion, living, transportation, education, entertainment, mind and spirit. Each lifestyle has been shaped by several distinctive Taiwan cultural characteristics, which can be leveraged to enrich the enjoyment of local citizens and international visitors. This may even attract foreign professionals and their dependents to Taiwan for short-term stay. By focusing on “Life in Taiwan” services, Taiwan can establish an ecosystem which will stimulate the growth of many local industries in healthcare services, medical devices, consumer products, real estate, insurance, and tourism. Such ecosystems integrated with products and services, if operating successfully, can be exported to overseas markets in the forms of service operations or system solutions.

Taiwan has no time to waste in transforming its manufacturing sector, which is losing its competitive advantages to other countries, but also not keeping up with the emerging global trends of service-based ecosystems. While establishing “Smart Manufacturing Headquarters” can extend Taiwan’s competitiveness in manufacturing, integrating “Economic Realms of Lifestyles” will create a paradigm shift to fundamentally transform Taiwan’s competitive landscape in the future.

This article was originally published in ITRI Today, No.77 2nd Quarter 2014.
All Rights Reserved.

Stephen Su

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