Foxconn's Vice Chairman's Message
Foxconn Wisconsin Perspective: 'How to transform Wisconsin
through smart manufacturing'
Last fall, during 'Manufacturing Month' I gave a keynote presentation for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Made in Wisconsin Conference. We celebrated the accomplishments of manufacturers across the state, and I described the thematic directions that Foxconn hopes to pursue its Wisconsin operation. While discussing the need for advanced manufacturing and the use of Industrial Artificial Intelligence to accelerate smart manufacturing productivity, I also emphasized the spirit that “to live well, a country must produce well.”
Agility to Transform: Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time
Like President John F. Kennedy famously said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Manufacturing is not just about machines, workers, and factories; it is about the ability and agility to enable the workforce and society to make meaningful things at the right time. This reality had certainly been the case in January 1942 when, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board to mobilize manufacturing capacity of peacetime industries to produce America’s “Arsenal of Democracy,” a key to Allied victory. When the invisible enemy COVID-19 began to disrupt our world and astonishing images of nurses and doctors wearing makeshift PPE and quarantined citizens flashed across our TV screens, Foxconn made a quick decision to mobilize our agile supply chain and manufacturing capabilities to make masks and save American lives. To date, Foxconn Wisconsin has assembled nearly 13 million masks in Mount Pleasant, WI for people in need. Since April 2020, Foxconn has donated masks to the State of Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center, Kenosha Police Department, and other key response organizations.
This pandemic changed everything we do, including our work, travel, and social activities. The COVID-19 pandemic is also accelerating the speed of transformation in many industries. As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said in April 2020, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security.”1 One of the fastest-growing services is enterprise cloud computing. Amazon Web Services reported growth of 33% and 29% in their first and second earnings reports of 2020 respectively. Meanwhile, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud each had increases approaching 50% during this same period.
Within the Science and Technology Park in Racine County, Foxconn Wisconsin built a Multi-Purpose Building (MBP) to produce servers using state-of-the-art automation, industrial AI, and 5G technologies; our target is to soon convert our MPB into a World Economic Forum Lighthouse Factory and a shining example of Industry 4.0 manufacturing in the United States. In addition, Foxconn plans to move into a 296,000 square foot Smart Manufacturing Center we’re building by the end of this year, which will be the home of “Made in the USA” data servers and data server racks production. This will make Southeast Wisconsin a new hub for next-generation digital computing product design, manufacturing, and services. Foxconn Wisconsin is now positioned to meet the growing demand for secure and reliable data transmission and is poised to capture a substantial percentage of the data server market share in the United States. In addition, Foxconn Wisconsin will soon take occupancy of the nearly 1,000,000 square foot Advanced Manufacturing Facility.
From Highway I-94 to the Data Highway, to Building a Talent Highway in Wisconsin
I-94 between the Marquette Interchange and the Illinois state line has been widened from six to eight lanes, paving the way as a highway corridor of future smart manufacturing. Foxconn Wisconsin has also made substantial progress on the construction of a High-Performance Computing Data Center as a future “data highway” to support the Foxconn ecosystem of advanced manufacturing in WI. The Data Center Globe will soon house Foxconn’s network operation center to support advanced manufacturing operations throughout the Park. As more high-performance computing needs are required, modular buildings will be constructed. The state-of-the-art facility will attract additional investment from future business partners in need of high-performance computing services.
To meet the needs of our modern workforce, we have been making efforts to recruit, train, and nurture Industrial AI talents through the Foxconn Future Leaders Program (FFLP). This program represents a “talent highway” providing a platform for engineers to learn industrial big data, machine learning, edge computing, and the industrial internet to tackle issues in the “invisible space” of the manufacturing operations and to further develop technologies and techniques to enhance quality and productivity. Jordan Berg, a member of FFLP stated, “For a large corporation like Foxconn to have programs like FFLP, which hires employees and trains them in disciplines they’re interested in, but do not necessarily have the background in, is an admirable and welcome feature among Wisconsin companies.” In order to extend the training content from FFLP to industry and academia at large, Foxconn launched the Industrial AI (iAI) Institute in July of this year. Industrial AI is a systematic discipline that enables the successful implementation of machine learning within industrial settings. This institute serves as a one-stop training platform for the cultivation of a new smart manufacturing workforce. In addition, I published a new book on Industrial AI to use it as the knowledge textbook for training FFLP engineers.
Foxconn’s Commitment to Wisconsin’s 3Es (Economy, Employment, and Education)
The future is bright for Foxconn Wisconsin, and we remain committed to actively building on our vision for the role this state will play in our U.S. and international operations. Given the nature of any project of this kind, as well as the obvious impact of a global health crisis and the subsequent economic conditions associated with that development, some adjustments to our project plans were always inevitable.
We are proud of the material contributions we are making in Wisconsin and appreciate the significant support we have received from local officials, the Wisconsin business community, and our state officials. Contrary to stereotypes or assumptions, Foxconn’s growing Wisconsin workforce is comprised of over 90% Wisconsin residents who live, work and contribute to our community’s tax base. Foxconn’s progress has been achieved despite many challenges, which at times have included cultural assimilation, changing business demands, tariffs, a pandemic, and a Presidential election year. Successful employees have continued to work through assimilation of cultural differences, adapting to changing business needs, and finding ways to contribute to the company as their roles have evolved.
We are proud that over 90% of contract value for projects dedicated to the construction of our Science and Technology Park has gone towards Wisconsin businesses. To date, Foxconn has invested $850 million dollars in Wisconsin. In addition, nearly 3,200 construction workers have worked through the cold winter days and the summer heat to construct our four facilities.
We are proud that despite changing global markets and shifting political sentiments, Foxconn still chooses to find ways to make the business work in Wisconsin. In response to changing market conditions unforeseeable three years ago, Foxconn Wisconsin formally came to the table with WEDC in August 2020 with a desire to lower taxpayer liability in exchange for flexibility th incentivizes future business development and job creation in Wisconsin. Foxconn Wisconsin leadership is optimistic that an amendment to the 2017 WEDC Agreement is within reach.
1 “2 years of digital transformation in 2 months,” Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, April 30, 2020
By: Dr. Jay Lee, Board Member and Vice-Chairman of Foxconn Technology Group. Jay Lee was selected as among “30 visionaries in smart manufacturing” by SME in 2016 and the “20 most influential professors in smart manufacturing” by SME in June 2020.
He is the author of the book “Industrial AI: Applications with Sustainable Development,” published by Springer.