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After helping more than a million brick-and-mortar Chinese retailers modernise their operations, Alibaba Group Holding has now set its sights on a new target: the country’s outdated factories.

China’s largest corporation unveiled in September its first smart factory, a secret experiment that Alibaba has been conducting for three years on the outskirts of its hometown of Hangzhou. The three-story facility known as Xunxi — literally “fast rhino” — is the company’s attempt at leveraging its consumer data and technologies to help the multitrillion-dollar manufacturing arena improve efficiency and meet rising consumer expectations...

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