Jargon watch: lights out production lines

If you are of a certain age, ‘hand made by robots’ brings to mind the Fiat Strada / Ritmo a thirtysomething year old hatchback design that was built in a factory with a high degree of automation for the time.

Fiat subsidiary Comau created Robogate, a highly automated system that speeds up body assembly. Robogate was eventually replaced in 2000. The reality is that ‘hand made by robots’ had a liberal amount of creative licence. Also it didn’t enable Fiat to shake off its rust bucket image. Beneath the skin, the car was essentially a Fiat 127. Car factories still aren’t fully automated.

Foxconn is looking to automate its own production lines and create products that truly are ‘hand-built by robots’. Like Fiat it has its own robots firm which is manufacturing 10,000 robots per year.

Foxconn has so far focused on production lines for larger product final assembly (like televisions) and workflow on automated machine lines: many consumer products use CNC (computer numeric control) machines. That’s how Apple iPhone and Macs chassis’ are made. These totally automated lines are called ‘lights out production lines’ by Foxconn.

Foxconn is looking to automate production because China is undergoing a labour shortfall as the population getting older. Foxconn uses a lot of manual workers for final assembly of devices Apple’s iPhone because the components are tightly packed together. It will be a while before Foxconn manages to automate this as robotic motor control isn’t fine enough to achieve this yet.

More information
Foxconn boosting automated production in China | DigiTimes – (paywall)

The QRcode post

A few years ago, I was involved in a project that used QRcodes on OOH (out of home) activity for a retail launch. QRcode scanners varied in performance. In addition you had to think about:

  • Contrast – did the QRcode stand out?
  • Relative aspect – would it be too big or too small for the audience to scan?

In the UK, QRcodes are seen by marketers as old hat (but then they didn’t ‘get’ them in the same way that Asia did). Other people don’t really understand how to use them.
QRcode 101
Above is the picture of the local cafe around the corner from my office. The QRcode is too disjointed and blurred to read. I asked a member of staff about it and he told me that he thought it was some type of logo…

June 2016 online marketing and technology research slides

Here is a copy of the slides that I pull together (when I have the time) each month of publicly available data that would be of use.

This month I have some new data around search which came from disclosures at Google I/O in terms of search volumes. We talk about social as if search has gone out of style but its growth is still staggering, driven by mobile device penetration.
Google global search volume
Looking at global search revenue over time, Google’s monopoly position becomes immediately apparent.
Global Search Revenues
More details about me here.
Slide20
Full presentation available for download as a PDF on Slideshare

MWC 2016 as a case study on talkability, brand mentions and brand performance

Mobile World Congress (or in industry parlance MWC 2016) is where the telecoms industry goes to set out its stand. It has gradually changed from being a conference where the big issues of the day are hashed out, to more of a trade show a la CES or CeBIT.

From a brand point of view, it was of interest to me for two reasons:

  • It offers largely culture neutral brand discussions, many of which occur online
  • I have an interest, having worked on a few mobile brands during my agency career (Palm, Ericsson, Verizon Wireless, Samsung, Qualcomm, Telenor Myanmar and Huawei)

I pulled this slide ware together for a talk I am giving at an internal event at an agency.

The first data that I have put together is looking at the amount of mentions that occurred regardless of the channel. It is a relatively easy data point to pull out of monitoring systems very quickly.

Obviously the value of mentions will depend on how many people view them, what is the context that the mention appears in. What was the content around it? Who said it, are they expert or trustworthy? So looking purely at the number of mentions would be crude, offering little value apart from nice PowerPoint slides.

Breaking the mentions down by platform gives an idea of relative marketing communications competencies of brands. So looking at Huawei and Xiaomi shows contrasting approach to building talkability and conversations. Huawei focuses on traditional media channels where as Xiaomi focuses on social.

By comparison LG and Samsung seem to have a more holistic approach.

I then moved on beyond the mention data to try and look at relative authority of whoever mentioned the brand and looking at the relative distribution by brand and channel.

I had done some initial analysis on the event in general here. These numbers showed how well brands had built high authority communities and the discussions around them.

What was quite surprising was the polarised authority of mainstream media sources. Newswire syndication had destroyed authority of many online traditional media channels. A second cross brand observation was the relatively low authority of the blogosphere.

These slides only start to delve into understanding talkability and are time consuming to create in comparison to looking at raw mention numbers, but offer superior strategic insight for both earned and paid media approaches for future launches.

I did some broad profiling of online conversations around MWC here.

Oprah time: China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holslag

Where do I start with a book title this inflammatory? I went to the trouble of reading the book twice before starting this review. In the end, the only conclusion I can come to is ‘Policy Faultlines in East Asia’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Untitled
Holsag marshals a huge range of facts and opinions within the book. If you want to have a basic understanding of modern Chinese state, the book is a good primer.

He provides insight into the Chinese Communist’s Party’s policy cornerstone of territory maximisation. They were happy to put off their agenda for tactical advantage, but never gave up on their goals. China’s neighbours have similar inflexible policy goals. There is is no win-win solution.

Time has brought increased pressures. A fight for resources to fuel further growth and water rights conflicts. Relative declines in economic growth also fuels nationalistic politics. In China, nationalistic sentiments in citizens grew with prosperity. It has become convenient for politicians to tap into nationalistic sentiments.

Holsag doesn’t attempt to provide a solution for de-escalation of these edges. His book only provides a macro-level understanding of the countries involved. For the reader who wants to understand Asia, Holsag’s book is an excellent primer.  More on China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holsag.

Happy mid-autumn festival

Especially to my peeps in Hong Kong
Happy mid autumn festival

The rise of the Shenzhen eco-system

Just over 30 years ago China moved from a period of cultural isolation to gradually opening up to the commercial world beyond its borders. The place to naturally start this was in Guangdong province close to the British colony of Hong Kong. A small fishing village grew to become the workshop of the world. The growth of Shenzhen was driven by investment from multi-nationals and overseas Chinese.

Hong Kong clothing manufacturers moved across the border to cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan alongside Taiwanese counterparts in electronics and multi-nationals. The Shenzhen-Dongguan-Guangzhou triangle now has a population of 25 million people and is responsible for the majority of China’s exports by value.
OCT LOFT: former factories
At first, these companies were used to fatten the wallets of customers who took on the marketing and distribution of electronics in the West. The dirty secret about many PC and laptop designs was they were standard underneath. Then this cost saving was passed on to the customer as people like Dell went for close to lowest price operator based on a direct mail / online direct ordering and cut out the channel.

Finally that wasn’t enough, and most of the laptop and PC resellers make no money. Instead the main people to profit from these sales were Microsoft which licensed it’s Windows operating system and Intel which provided the majority of compatible micro-processors capable of running Windows-compatiable applications. In the PC industry there is usually just two or three profitable manufacturers and one of them is Apple. Historically it was Dell, then Hewlett-Packard and now it is likely to have be Lenovo.

Shrinking PC-esque computing power into the palm of one’s hand was inevitable with the rise of flash storage and Moore’s Law facilitating power-efficient processors. The challenge is battery technology, packaging and industrial design.  Apple pushed the envelope with suppliers. Hon Hai and other manufacturers installed hundreds of CNC machines to fabricate thousands of metal phone chassis. These radical changes in manufacturing capability were opened up to lower tier manufacturers raising the standard of fit and finish immeasurably over a few years.

Now Xiaomi and Lenovo product handsets that have better build quality than many Samsung and HTC handsets. The performance is good enough (again thanks to Moore’s Law) and the handsets run the same applications. Sony, HTC and Samsung handsets look as marooned as Sony’s Vaio PC range in the Windows eco-system.

Shenzhen’s eco-system has been a great leveller of manufacturing and industrial design capabilities with Apple at the leading edge of what’s possible from an industrial design and materials technology.

More information
Shenzhen Government Online – this loads slow like they are phoning the pages in from 2002, but is informative
The smartphone value system – An earlier piece I wrote about the challenges of the Android eco-system

I like: Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific Corporate Social Media Study 2011

Some handy slide fodder from Burson-Marsteller. It was interesting that Asian companies have gone to micro-blogs and social networks. I am not surprised as a blog needs nurturing, also you can do a lot more in 140 Chinese characters than you can do in the English language.

Unsurprisingly South Korea led the pack, partly due to the vibrant local eco-system there with the likes of Kakao Talk, LINE and mature platforms like CyWorld.

One thing I did notice which I thought was a nice touch: B-M state that the research is released under a Creative Commons licence. A small thing that demonstrates digital awareness, especially when the industry is full of proprietary methodologies and the like.

The slides are on Slideware which may not be available to all readers.

Oprah Time: Beyond The Crash by Gordon Brown

On leaving office, Gordon Brown immediately spent a lot of time hammering out a book Beyond The Crash. Unlike Peter Mandelson this wasn’t the Westminster equivalent of a sordid kiss-and-tell exposé or a Tony Blair-esque sales brochure to secure speaking engagements. Instead Brown set out to do what he does best, putting on page deep thought and analysis about the knotty problem of global finances. He did an excellent job of marshaling ideas and sources in the book. His grasp on Asian economics and China in particular is very good. There is a whole section on the Asian crisis of 1998 which is well worth reading on its own.

In this respect, the book is a solid piece of work, Brown isn’t as compelling a writer as other economic thinkers that the Labour party has looked to like Will Hutton; but he does a good job at making his ideas and concepts understandable to the average reader.

Where things go wrong with the book is where Brown tries to humanise his writing. His comments of praise for colleagues and other politicians feels wooden, as if it was written into his book as a postscript. And it is because of this that we see a glimpse of Brown the politician; the polar opposite of his predecessor Tony Blair. Someone who thought at great depth and knew what to do but didn’t have the surface finish.

If you are prepared to persevere with the book, it is a good read, and is currently for sale in Amazon Marketplace at a massive discount to the cover price.

I like: Burson Marsteller Asia Pacific #infographics

Burson Marsteller have published a handy PDF of infographics giving the state of the internet in the APAC region country-by-country. It’s a useful reference that I am sure will get sampled and name-checked in presentations moving forwards.

Ogilvy on Facebook Commerce with an Asian slant to the data

Interesting presentation by Ogilvy on f-commerce. It has some great data about the market opportunity for e-commerce in Asia.

A couple of thoughts on the presentation. Firstly, you may not realise it by looking at the slides but commerce was happening on Japanese social network Mixi and Korean network Cyworld before Facebook. Secondly, social commerce depends a lot on the context of the product or service purchase, it isn’t a universal opportunity.

NMA explains Anonymous and LulzSec

Taiwan’s 3D animation dons Next Media Animation explain the recent Anonymous and LulzSec hacking and hacktivism in their own unique style with a sideswipe at Julian Assange tagged on at the end.