Finding a breakthrough in materials production

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Finding a breakthrough in materials production

There is a forecast that this year’s total trade volume will fall below $1 trillion, the first time in four years since 2011. In the global market, developed countries such as Japan and the United States are getting ahead with advanced technologies, and China is chasing Korea closely. A warning alarm is sounding for the manufacturing sector, which put traction on Korea’s growth and served as a driving force to overcome the global financial crisis.

The government is promoting “Manufacturing Innovation 3.0” to break through the crisis and reform the manufacturing ecosystem. By integrating the manufacturing sector with ICT, productivity and competitiveness can be enhanced, creating new industries of smart convergence. One of the core strategies is the parts and materials industry. Last year, the trade surplus in parts and materials exceeded $100 billion, and it is expected to break records this year.

In the materials sector, where development is known to be a challenge, the World Premier Materials (WPM) development project, cosponsored by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology, has made noteworthy progress. Ultra-light magnesium material developed through the WPM project is getting requests from world-class high-end automobile makers. Through the project, high molecular weight polyketone was developed for the first time in the world, and mass production has also been successful.

Nevertheless, one of the biggest obstacles is the outdated practice of domestic buyers. While Korean companies are at a similar technological level, buyers are reluctant to use domestically developed materials due to longstanding practices. Even within the same conglomerate, materials developed by a subsidiary are not bought by a buyer under the same group, and the newly developed materials are left unused and wasted.

In order to break this practice, materials developers need to work with buyers from the early stage of development and consistently employ “Early Supplier Involvement” strategy to oversee the entire process of parts and materials production. Buyers should also be more aggressively involved in the technology development, financing and application of new materials. Then, not only the materials industry but the entire parts industry will make notable growth.

by Seong Si-heon, President of the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology

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