Sony embraces robotics to reduce costs and increase digital services

Sony predicts that robots will take their manufacturing lines from TVs, smartphones and cameras while the entertainment conglomerate shifts its focus on services to drive sales of consumer electronic devices.

Kimio Maki, head of Sony’s electronics companies, said accelerating factory automation would be combined with a greater focus on online sales and data analysis to reduce manufacturing costs. He added that it would also help reduce product defects.

“I don’t think automation using robots alone will bring enough merit. The key is to use digitalization to link both sales and manufacturing, ”Maki said in an interview with the Financial Times.

He said the installation of unmanned production lines was planned to reduce costs by 70 per cent at Sony’s TV factory in Malaysia by fiscal year 2023, compared to 2018. The group also has ambitions to use robotics in the manufacture of smartphones and cameras in the future, although it will retain a few factory workers.

On the marketing front, sales data will be analyzed using artificial intelligence to more effectively establish manufacturing volume.

Kimio Maki © Sony

The digital drive for cost efficiency comes as Sony’s strategy in consumer electronics he turned. The group has recovered from television losses that have spanned more than a decade and has established its financial performance moving to a smaller volume but to higher level products.

Far from selling only hardware like Bravia TVs and Xperia smartphones, Maki is committed to offering interesting services that will keep consumers interested and returning, generating recurring revenue.

While Maki said the company will continue to sell hardware and services to consumers, a significant portion of its growth goal will come from products for professional use, such as crystal LED screens for virtual video production and sphere tracking technology for the sports entertainment industry. In the long run, Sony also wants to allocate entertainment space to cars.

The change has also improved the profitability of Sony’s electronics and medical businesses, with its operating profit margin growing to 7.2 percent in the fiscal year ending March 3 compared to March 3, 2006. 3 percent in fiscal 2018. Maki told investors he wanted to raise that figure to 10 percent.

Critics have long pointed to Sony’s weakness in digital services and platforms as a big reason why the Walkman manufacturer is losing battles against Apple iPod and Amazon Kindle, despite holding a rich fun card which embraces games, music, movies and animation.

Another challenge has been Sony’s hierarchy and siled structure, which has made it difficult for conglomerate divisions to cooperate on an ecosystem that integrates multiple products.

But that had changed, Maki said, since Sony spun off its electronics business in a separate company and brought together audio, TV, mobile phones, cameras and medical devices into a single organization in April.

“By being united in a single entity and governance structure, we can now cooperate organically to create something new. This applies not only to the manufacture of products, but also to the acquisition, manufacture, development of products and sales, ”he said.

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