Manufacturing in the USA vs. China: AI Could Be the Tipping Point

02 Oct 2019

Industrial manufacturing is the heartbeat of the economy for the United States and China, hence building Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities in industrial manufacturing is not only critical for economic transformation but also a stepping stone toward sustainable competitive advantages. ABI Research, a global tech market advisory firm, found that despite the nearly equal number of installed bases of AI-enabled end device in both markets, the United States has an edge over China due to its different incentives and approaches that encourage AI adoption in industrial manufacturing.

In the United States, the ecosystem of AI in industrial applications is growing quickly. The expensive labor force has driven the industrial sector to enhance production efficiency and lower operational costs. Currently, cloud service providers, smart manufacturing platform vendors, pure-play industrial AI platform and service providers, edge industrial AI gateway and server vendors, and chipset vendors are partnering with each other to bring AI into industrial manufacturing. “Major cloud players, AWS and Microsoft, have established a wide range of partnerships with industrial AI development platform vendors, AI software vendors, and system integrators to provide an end-to-end, cloud-to-edge solution to enhance operational efficiency, reduce bottlenecks, and optimize resource consumption in factories,” said Lian Jye Su, Principal Analyst at ABI Research.

In China, the Chinese government has listed 10 key industrial manufacturing segments under Made in China in 2025, and AI is a strategic component of the Information Technology segment. Since 2015, the government has been encouraging provincial and local government, public agencies, and state-owned enterprises to adopt AI in industrial manufacturing. Chinese cloud AI conglomerates such as Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei, and Tencent have all made AI in smart manufacturing a key priority in their business strategy. Manufacturing giant Foxconn even spun out Foxconn Industrial Internet (FII), a company focusing on developing software and building hardware, including precision tools, servers for cloud services, and robots, to accelerate its digitalization effort. However, despite the government’s will to transform the industrial sector, small- and medium-size manufacturers, which represent a significant proportion of the manufacturing sector in the region, are less incentivized to follow the government guidance in adopting AI and automated operations. For these players, it is still economically viable and more practical to perform back-end operation tasks manually via a cheap and abundant workforce.

Under these circumstances, it is very hard to build a pure-play industrial AI vendor ecosystem in China. A lot of industrial and manufacturing startups in China are still focused on the connectivity layer, instead of pure-play industrial AI solutions. AI market leaders like Alibaba are visionary and have their own suite of AI-based solutions for industrial manufacturing. However, these cloud AI companies do not often have the right connections and go-to-market channel to reach many provincial and municipal manufacturers where the majority of small- and medium-size manufacturers reside, and are still relying on existing relationships with legacy solution providers, local system integrators, and most importantly on cheap labor to support back-end operations.

On the other hand, industrial AI startups in the United States are more mature than their global peers. C3, Falkonry, FogHorn, Sight Machine, SparkCognition, Uptake, and Zymergen are some of the highly recognized startups with proven solutions in AI development platforms, material synthesis, machine vision, and operational efficiency enhancement. Being vendor agnostic, they can coexist with many well-established industrial solution providers such as ABB, GE, Siemens, and Honeywell, and bring AI into brownfield deployment, lowering upfront cost and the barrier to adoption. Through their partnership with system integrators and regional distributors, these startups have also ventured into Europe, South Korea, and Japan.

“The high labor cost and the quick time-to-market have driven U.S. manufacturers to be more aggressive with the adoption of industrial AI solutions. This has given birth to pure-play AI players in the US, and as such, keeps the US to be the global leader in industrial AI solutions. Over time, however, we believe that China will catch up. The investments poured into AI and all its adjacencies, such as 5G and robotics, will create new opportunities for domestic companies that focus on AI in industrial manufacturing and this will boost China’s sustainable competitive advantages,” Su concluded.

These findings are from ABI Research’s AI in Industrial Applications application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s  Industrial Solution research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.


About ABI Research

ABI Research provides strategic guidance to visionaries, delivering actionable intelligence on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces across the world. ABI Research’s global team of analysts publish groundbreaking studies often years ahead of other technology advisory firms, empowering our clients to stay ahead of their markets and their competitors. 

For more information about ABI Research’s services, contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific or visit

About ABI Research

ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology solution providers and end-market companies. We serve as the bridge that seamlessly connects these two segments by providing exclusive research and expert guidance to drive successful technology implementations and deliver strategies proven to attract and retain customers.

ABI Research 是一家全球性的技术情报公司,拥有得天独厚的优势,充当终端市场公司和技术解决方案提供商之间的桥梁,通过提供独家研究和专业性指导,推动成功的技术实施和提供经证明可吸引和留住客户的战略,无缝连接这两大主体。

For more information about ABI Research’s services, contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific, or visit

Contact ABI Research

Media Contacts

Americas: +1.516.624.2542
Europe: +44.(0).203.326.0142
Asia: +65 6950.5670

Related Research

Related Service