Alibaba Launches Rhino Smart Manufacturing Platform, Opens Cloud-driven Digital Factory in Hangzhou

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Chinese tech giant Alibaba has just launched a new smart manufacturing platform that incorporate a swathe of advanced technologies including cloud computing, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

Alibaba officially debuted its Rhino Smart Manufacturing Platform (犀牛智造平台) 16 September, with the launch of the No. 1 Project (一号工程) Rhino Manufacturing Factory in the Zhejiang province capital of Hangzhou.

Alibaba said that it has been working on the platform for the past three years, and that the new factory “spans manufacturing and sales,” employing cloud computing, IoT and AI to connect sales forecasts and flexible manufacturing.

The factory can produce small-batch orders for lower costs and briefer delivery times via the use of technologies including process and cost planning and automated in-house logistics.

According to Alibaba this results in a manufacturing efficiency increase from 25% to 55% on average, and the ability to provide “manufacturing based on demand, manufacturing determined by sales, and rapid payment.”

The factory will focus on the apparel sector at the outset, and the many small and medium-sized vendors that make use of Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace and Tmall platforms.

Alibaba hopes that commercial customers will make use of Rhino Manufacturing services in the same way that they currently make use of its cloud platform services.

Alain Wu Xuegang (伍学刚), CEO of Xunxi (Rhino) said to domestic media that he believes the “dividends of technology can bring massive changes” to the huge manufacturing market.

“New manufacturing enables ‘Made in Internet’ to become a reality,” said Wu.

“We believe that one day the manufacturing capability of factories will be allocatable in the same way as cloud computing, achieving the cloud conversion of production, and enabling the apparel and textiles sector to become more flexible.”

Wu said that for vendors “smart manufacturing” would involve the creation of “smart, shared factories” for the acceptance of small and urgent orders.

New manufacturing was one of five key strategies outlined by Alibaba founder Jack Ma in October 2016, alongside new retail, new finance, new energy and new technology.

In July 2017 Alibaba established its “Five News” execution committee, chaired by the Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang Yong, and in August 2017 it established its New Manufacturing team to commence work on Rhino Manufacturing.

Alibaba built a New Manufacturing factory in Hangzhou in March 2018 to commence exploration of related technologies, and kicked off trial operations in August of the same year.

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