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From “Manufacturing Plant” to “Industry Leader” – YOFC Leads China’s “Intelligent” Manufacturing of Optical Fibers

As China’s earliest joint venture enterprise for optical fibers, YOFC, after the efforts of nearly 30 years, has become the world’s largest supplier for optical fiber preforms and optical fibers as well as the world’s second largest supplier for optical cables. Listed on the main board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited in 2014, it has embarked on a path of technology import, digestion, absorption, innovation and export, and become the world’s largest Chinese representative enterprise that has the most comprehensive mastery of technology in the industry.


Promoting the overtaking around the curves of intelligent manufacturing

Establishing new mode of standard of optical fibers and cables


Countries and nations cannot be powerful and prosperous without strong manufacturing industry. At present, intelligent manufacturing has become a new competition focus in the global manufacturing industry as well as an opportunity of “overtaking around the curves” for China’s manufacturing industry.


In order to fulfill the program of action of “Made in China 2025” strategy, to achieve the strategic target of becoming an industrial power, to create an enterprise of international competitiveness and to promote its overall efficiency, YOFC has played an active role in the investment in intelligent manufacturing.


Last July, YOFC became one of the first 46 intelligent manufacturing pilot demonstration enterprises confirmed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology as well as the only representative enterprise of China’s optical fiber and cable industry. As early as 2012, YOFC launched the intelligent manufacturing project planning to conduct intellectualized reconstruction for the new manufacturing techniques and production equipment of optical fiber preforms. Through 4 years of development, per capita output of optical fiber preforms has been increased by 15.3%, per capita output of optical fibers by 47.4% and the speed of fiber drawing by 38.9%. Now, YOFC’s speed of optical fiber drawing can reach up to 3000 meters per minute, which is one of the most advanced fiber drawing techniques all over the world.


YOFC has also created a 5-level model of intelligent manufacturing including the decision making level, operating level, the executive level, the network control level as well as the field level. “Such a model has the following features including layered system, modularization of business functions, cut-through and standardized procedures, easy integration, flexible configuration, extendibility and high reliability.” said Yan Changkun, vice president of YOFC. Under this architecture, horizontal integration, longitudinal correlation as well as the coordination and synergy of monomer intelligent plant and group resources management will be realized in the future. Through tests, YOFC’s output has increased by 30% to 40% with the same manual input and production area.


At the end of this year, YOFC Qianjiang Science and Technology Park will be completed and put into operation with an initial investment of 1.33 billion yuan with the purpose of laying an important foundation for YOFC to establish an entirely new intelligent plant. According to the program of intelligent manufacturing, YOFC will gradually form the intellectualized manufacturing cells, intellectualized manufacturing process and intellectualized innovation ability, transform from the rule-driven mode to data-driven one as well as from the manufacturing mode to the mode of intelligent manufacturing+services. In the future, YOFC will carry out intelligent manufacturing special project in Qianjiang, form a new mode of standard of intelligent manufacturing that conforms to the manufacturing characteristics of optical fibers and cables, promote it within the industry as well as related industries, and make greater contributions to the promotion of China’s intelligent manufacturing level.


From “manufacturing plant” to “industry leader”

5% of the annual sales revenue used for independent research and development


The transformation from “made in China” to “intelligent manufacturing in China” can by no means achieve in a day. YOFC, established for 28 years, has become the “industry leader” from a “manufacturing plant depending on technology import”, which is the result of many years of unswerving independent technological innovation.


Established in May, 1988, YOFC is a joint venture enterprise by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of China, Wuhan Municipality and Netherlands Philips. In its early days, equipment, technology and techniques for the production of optical fibers were all imported.


“At that time, even a screw spike and a fitting needed to be imported.” Yan Changkun, vice president of YOFC, still remembers that when such a fitting was purchased, the seller just told us a profit of 25% would be added on the basis of his cost price. “We had no other choices but to give in because he was the exclusive seller.”


Due to YOFC’s poor equipment manufacturing level, there was no room for negotiation in this respect. With the investment of imported equipment accounting for more than 60% of the total, YOFC had no competitiveness in cost and technology compared with overseas giants. In 2000, YOFC, at that time not a strong power, made a stunning decision that we would make a determined effort to develop independent research and development equipment


“5% of the annual sales revenue should be all used for research and development and that you should run out of it. There is only a prescribed minimum for our research and development expenditure without upper limit!” said Wang Ruichun, general manager of the research and development center of YOFC.


After 10 years of self-imposed hardships to accomplish its ambitions, YOFC has finally achieved the independent research and development as well as independent production of equipment complex of optical fibers and cables through introduction, digestion, absorption and innovation. In 2010, it even realized the independent design, research and development of preform equipment with the highest technology content.


In the industry of optical fibers and cables, optical fiber preforms are always the core domains. Due to higher technological barrier, few enterprises in China can realize the large-scale production of optical fiber preforms. Most of the optical fiber and cable manufacturers at home need to import optical fiber preforms for the production of optical fibers every year.


YOFC’s successful research and development of the production equipment of optical fiber preforms has broken away from its dependence on foreign technology, thus greatly reducing the cost of production. In the past, it cost 3 million euros to import a set of equipment, while now, we only spend less than 3 million yuan on the independent research and development of an equipment complex, thus reducing the manufacturing costs, further reducing the price of optical fibers and making our products more competitive.


This year, after the efforts of nearly 3 years, YOFC has overcome another difficulty, that is, to break down the technical barrier of ultraviolet curing, an important working procedure in the preform fiber drawing engineering, which has greatly reduced the energy consumption. For example, if the optical fiber of 70 million kilometers is produced, the electricity of more than 6000 KWH will be saved. In the meantime, the service life of the new ultraviolet curing equipment is four times as long as that of the old imported one while the cost is only half of that of the previous equipment.


Thanks to the development of new production equipment as well as information integration and improvement of automatic production line, the production efficiency has been greatly enhanced. Besides, the speed of fiber drawing of the fiber drawing tower has also risen from about 2000 meters per minute to 3000 meters per minute, which is currently the fastest speed of optical fiber drawing all over the world.


Yan said that YOFC is able to produce 50% more with the same equipment. “If the optical fiber is priced at 70 yuan per kilometer, the cost can be reduced by 10%.”



From “introducing in” to “going global”

Global market distribution of YOFC brand


Aiming at the strategic target of “the world number one and the industry leader” and relying on the national strategy of “One Belt and One Road”, YOFC has accelerated the industrial distribution on a global scale and actively promoted the capacity expansion of preforms, optical fibers and cables as well as the upstream and downstream industrial construction. It has become the world's largest supplier for optical fiber preforms and optical fibers as well as world’s second largest supplier for optical cables.


At home, YOFC Science and Technology Park, the optical cable production base of the world’s largest monomer capacity has been put into operation. YOFC Qianjiang Science and Technology Park is now under construction. At present, YOFC is the only enterprise in the world that has simultaneously mastered three preform manufacturing techniques including PCVD (Plasma Chemistry Vapor Deposition), OVD (Outside Vapor Deposition) and VAD (Vapor Axial Deposition).


Based on the comprehensive mastery of PCVD technique, YOFC has achieved the independent development of VAD technique platform, thus breaking many years of foreign technical barrier. Besides, it has also established a company for preforms production on the basis of OVD technique as a joint venture with Shin-Etsu Chemical.


Beyond Hubei Province, YOFC has also completed its distribution: the optical cable production base in Lanzhou has radiated to Middle Asia, and the optical cable production base in Shenyang has radiated to Northeast Asia. Zhejiang Ally First will become the second largest in Zhejiang Province as well as the most influential supplier for optical fibers in China.


After realizing the technological leadership in the world, YOFC has started to promote its products to go global and actively achieved the overseas distribution by setting up factories in Burma and Indonesia with its products sold in Africa.


The optical cable factory in Burma has radiated to Southeast Asia, the optical fiber factory in Indonesia is the first one in Southeast Asia, and the subsidiary in South Africa will become the most influential supplier for optical cables in African regions.


In order to better meet the requirements of overseas customers and improve its service quality, YOFC has continuously strengthened the construction of overseas sales teams. By the end of 2015, it had established 22 overseas offices.


Zhuang Dan, the president of YOFC says that the company will continue to set up new factories or establish projects abroad and to improve its international distribution. In the next 5 years, YOFC’s international revenue is expected to reach 25% of the total.



YOFC’s Intelligent Manufacturing

What is happening?

Secrets Exploration


On November 11, CCTV News on “Investigation and Survey of Made in China 2025 Strategy” focused on YOFC as well as its striking innovation in the field of optical fiber intelligent manufacturing. It is reported that while constantly promoting the intellectualized upgrading of its core equipment, YOFC has also aimed at such aided manufacturing links as logistics and packing in order to strengthen its improvement efforts. Through overall planning as well as the mode of technological iteration, YOFC has continuously explored the integrated solutions of smart factory.



3 minutes dropping to 40 seconds

Automatic packing alleviating burdens on operators


A set of optical fibers can be packed automatically in 40 seconds while in the past, 3 minutes were needed for manual packing. In the past, manual packing was applied in finished optical fibers and there were many problems. “The first one is lower efficiency. In recent years, with the dramatic improvement of production efficiency of optical fibers, packing efficiency has become the bottleneck of the whole manufacturing process,” said Yang Wu, production director of the workshop. Labor intensity is quite high for operators using manual packing, and many of them have suffered from neck-shoulder strain due to dull work postures.


YOFC has changed the use of plastic casing as packing materials in the past and developed stretch film type automatic packing flow line for optical fibers, thus solving the problems that packing cannot be realized on the out-of-reach surface of optical fibers and that materials are piled up on the complex rack shelf stack with manipulators.


Packing difficulties of optical fibers can be solved effectively by such technical measures as planning the optimal route of manipulators and avoiding packing intervals. Yang says that now 6 to 8 operators can be replaced for a single packing machine, and the packing quality has also been greatly improved with a reduction of about 20% in packing costs.


Marching forward at a high speed without the fear of crash

“Automated Guided” Vehicle for the delivery of materials


In YOFC’s workshop, many vehicles for the delivery of materials can be seen working. They are “automated guided” and will stay away from the obstacles automatically.


Yang Wu, production director of the workshop says that such vehicles are called AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) that can move forward along the guided routes set for them and stay away from the obstacles automatically.


It is introduced that in the process of optical fiber production. In order to increase the manufacturing efficiency, optical fibers need to be first collected onto a large plate that can store the optical fibers of 500 kilometers. Both the plate and the optical fibers weigh 50 kilograms in total. Then the plate will be delivered to the screening process to complete optical fiber testing and small plate segmentation. According to the current production scale, there are hundreds of large optical fiber plates transported and delivered in the workshop every day, which will not only make the production operators too exhausted to handle, but will also result in the storage disorder caused by manual transportation, thus exerting influences on the follow-up production efficiency including screening.


YOFC has imported a batch of automated guided vehicles through intelligent manufacturing and transformation, and drawn the three-dimensional digital map of the whole workshop, thus realizing the automatic delivery and storage of optical fiber large plates in the case of not exerting any influences on the current production environment. After the whole project is implemented and completed, 3 to 5 staff of transportation will be expected to be saved for each team, and the optical fiber logistics in the workshop will basically realize digital monitoring.

Setting up a manufacturing cloud platform

Smart factory makes information networking possible


Optical fiber preforms and optical fibers have such features as long process time and complicated technological setting. Dozens of or even thousands of technological parameters need to be set in accordance with different product categories in the production process, and a series of data including technological parameters and equipment status shall also be paid close attention for the reason that great production losses will be created in case of setting faults.


In the past, due to its poor production information system, YOFC could only realize real-time data collection and statistical summary, but it could not achieve the effective release of real-time information as well as the immediate setting of technological parameters.


Therefore, YOFC has completed large-scale upgrading of the current information system, introduced storage cluster and cloud computing technology, formed an information centralized management system and dramatically improved the processing capacity for parallel data.


After the information centralized management system is established, there is no need for the technicians to conduct on-site inspections for a long time. Once unusual conditions appear, the system will automatically inform the technicians to deal with them immediately. And before each production process, the information system will provide reminders for parameter setting in accordance with the former production status as well as the follow-up test results, and automatically transfer to the control system of the production equipment after the confirmation, thus avoiding a lot of tedious tasks such as parameter setting and checking.


YOFC has still been conducting its further development of the cloud manufacturing platform with the purpose of realizing the digital collaborative manufacturing of all production bases on a global scale through the information system, which will further improve the manufacturing efficiency and quality of the whole group.


Grilled at a high temperature of more than 2000℃, the preforms are drawn into optical fibers that are transparent and as fine as hair in the fiber drawing tower of more than 30 meters high......In the world’s largest monomer optical fiber drawing workshop of YOFC in the Optical Valley of Wuhan, the output of optical fibers is more than 3,500 kilometers are produced each year equivalently circling the Earth nearly 900 times.


Through independent research and development, such world-leading optical fiber manufacturing equipment has been “branded” with YOFC’s proprietary intellectual property rights. Through many years of intelligent manufacturing practice of optical fibers and cables, YOFC has been going global from Wuhan and leading China’s “intelligent” manufacturing of optical fibers.

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