US companies barred from selling phone parts to China’s ZTE for seven years
In a hammer blow to many American companies manufacturing parts for smartphones and other telecoms equipment, the US Department of Commerce has banned native firms from selling to Chinese giant ZTE.
A massive producer of telecoms devices and network equipment, including smartphones for many leading brands, ZTE is a key customer for numerous US manufacturers, in some cases accounting for 25-30% of revenue.
The ruling was enforced after ZTE was found guilty of illegally selling goods into Iran and North Korea, breaking an agreement it struck with the American government.
- BMW invests €10mn in a new Additive Manufacturing Campus
- HP showcases new 3D production technology at the Additive Manufacturing Users Group
- Read the latest issue of Manufacturing Global here
The Chinese firm has already paid out $890mn in fines and could face another $300mn penalty. ZTE also agreed to sack four senior employees linked to the scandal.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said: “ZTE made false statements to the US Government when they were originally caught and put on the Entity List, made false statements during the reprieve it was given, and made false statements again during its probation.
“ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored.”
Last month ZTE recorded reported 2017 revenue of $17.33bn in 2017, a 7.5% jump on the previous year.
Away from its core device manufacturing, the company says it is devoting itself to emerging technologies such as the internet of things, chips, cloud computing, and big data.
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.