While the skies are now clear over much of Japan, Typhoon Jebi has left a major scar on Asia’s supply chains. Jebi struck hardest at Kansai International Airport, Japan’s third largest by traffic volume, following Narita and Haneda airports, which serve metropolitan Tokyo.
The automotive industry is already experiencing disruption by all vehicles electric, autonomous and connected. Fundamentally, these technological innovations are changing current perceptions of the automotive industry. With all these innovations and disruptions already happening, here comes another new kid on the block to further ruffle the industry’s feathers— blockchain. By Jessminder Kaur
Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Dr Zhang Jing Bing, Research Director for IDC Worldwide Robotics at IDC Asia Pacific.
Q: What, in your opinion, sets IDC apart from other market research firms?
Zhang Jing Bing (ZJB): IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. With more than 1,100 analysts worldwide, IDC offers global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries. By combining global perspectives with greater in-depth understanding of local context, IDC is in a unique and ideal position to help IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy.
IDC’s research scope covers both horizontal technologies and vertical insights of all key industry sectors, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, financial, government, energy, telecommunications, and so on.
Q: What are the most innovative applications you have seen in robotics in the past 12 months?
ZJB: Robotics technology and its applications are constantly developing at fast pace. We are seeing innovation in both robotic systems and their applications in almost all industries including, for example, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, retail, hospitality, construction, and so on. Early successes have been demonstrated recently where artificial intelligence techniques are used to interpret the product configuration and automatically generate programs that control multiple robots to accomplish tasks for product assembly.
Q: Controversially, collaborative robots (cobots) have often been seen as the replacement of human workers. Could you enlighten us about the role cobots play in building an industry of the future?
ZJB: There will always be concerns that applications of new automation technologies such as robotics will take jobs away from human workers. However, it should be understood that robots, including traditional industrial robots and cobots, are used to automate tasks that are typically dangerous, hazardous, or repetitive in nature, which are not desirable for human being to undertake.
Dangerous and/or hazardous tasks (e.g., welding, painting, heavy load lifting) should not be executed by humans as they are harmful to the human body. Repetitive tasks are mundane tasks that human workers in general do not enjoy doing, as they are dull, tedious, and less fulfilling. These are the areas that robot can help liberate human workers, create better jobs, and allow them to focus on jobs that require creativity and innovation, jobs that humans take pride to do.
Cobots refer to a type of robots that can be deployed in industrial and commercial applications without the need for safety fences/cages typically seen in the automotive industry. Cobots by definition can work safely alongside human workers. They allow human workers and robots to coexist in the same working space, whereby enabling the combination of the best of both worlds: the high dexterity and flexibility inherent in human, and the high precision and repeatability inherent in robots, plus the ability of robots to work tirelessly 24/7. Driven by customer demands for product quality, delivery, and mass customisation cobots are taking off in industrial applications, especially for high mix, low volume, and short cycle time manufacturing environment. Small and medium enterprise stand a high chance of benefitting from the adoption of cobots.
Q: Despite their versatility and adaptability, do cobots have any limitations?
ZJB: Compared to traditional industrial robots, cobots are easier to program, deploy and re-deploy to adopt to the changing production environment, but they lose out in terms of speed, repeatability and maximum payload. Cobots are mostly suited for applications such as light-weight product assembly, pick and place, sorting, packaging, and so on. While traditional industrial robots can have a payload of more than 1,000 kg, the majority of the current generation cobots have a payload of less than 15 kg, albeit a few models can extend the payload to slightly beyond 100 kg, with special safety features.
Q: In the coming five years, what areas of our life will be most impacted by artificial intelligence or robotics?
ZJB: The application of third platform technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, IoT, 3D printing, etc., will definitely improve product quality, manufacturing flexibility, and service delivery. As a result, we as individual consumers can expect better products and services that are more customised to our personal needs and at more affordable prices in the coming years.
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In times of fundamental global, economic and political changes it is as important as ever to expand worldwide technical competencies in order to continue playing in the first league with international competitors.
According to Cambium Networks, to deliver effective operations it has become necessary for disaster preparedness and response to provide internet connectivity to first responders, emergency workers and the public.
This was recently demonstrated during the dramatic cave rescue in Thailand, where 12 young boys and their soccer coach were trapped for two weeks, culminating in a rescue operation that captured the attention of the entire world. Thanks to the numerous emergency and military personnel, and volunteer experts, the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were rescued.
“Connectivity is vitally important to first responders, aid agencies, medical services and families as and when unforeseen events happen,” said Rohit Mehra, Vice-President, Network Infrastructure, IDC. “Wireless connectivity is a proven solution for disaster recovery when it is rapidly deployed and reliable, provides high performance and is immediately interoperable with a diverse set of user devices.
“The incredible efforts of first responders and emergency workers in Thailand were supported by having access to reliable connectivity and internet access that enabled them to communicate with each other and to get critical information about the boys who were being rescued.”
In the recent incident in Thailand, wireless connectivity played a critical role in delivering reliable internet service that connected teams at the remote cave entrance, located more than 100 kilometres from Bangkok.
At the on-site rescue command post, local telecom solutions provider KING IT worked with regional telco 3BB to create a hotspot at the cave entrance with Wi-Fi connectivity provided by Cambium Networks cnPilot e500 outdoor access points.
“Cambium Networks equipment helped provide Wi-Fi coverage at the cave entrance site during the rescue exercise, and we are very grateful to have contributed connectivity technology to this amazing effort,” said Atul Bhatnagar, President and CEO of Cambium Networks.
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Global automakers plan to invest at least $90 billion in electric cars and batteries, the most expensive component in the vehicles, to finance hundreds of new models over the next five years.
Electric and hybrid vehicles are expected to account for 30 percent of the global auto market by 2030, according to metal consultants CRU, up from 4 percent of the 86 million vehicles sold last year.
For now, carmakers in Europe have been importing batteries from Asia, but as production ramps up that will become less viable. Setting up production in Europe would cut shipping costs by a quarter, consultancy P3 Group.
But some carmakers are not waiting for a European industry, instead signing contracts with Asian firms coming to the region. German’s BMW said it was not involved in the European alliance while Europe’s biggest automaker, Volkswagen, said it plans to get batteries from LG Chem’s Polish factory due to open this year. Mercedes maker Daimler has awarded a contract to CATL.
The European Commission’s plan calls for 110 million euros in battery related research, help for projects from a 2.7 billion euro EU innovation fund and the development of an EU “green battery” trademark. Supporters of the initiative argue Europe can carve out a niche by selling green batteries produced with renewable energy and ethically sourced raw materials.
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PTC announced its ThingWorx Industrial Innovation Platform was ranked as the top smart manufacturing platform in ABI Research’s “Smart Manufacturing Platform Competitive Assessment.”
Platforms from 11 major vendors were analyzed by criteria such as innovation and implementation, including each firm’s overall business model, partnerships, product functionality, and system integration capabilities. ThingWorx received top scores in overall innovation, including its compelling use of augmented reality (AR) and tied for the top spot in its digital twin functionality and protocol adaptability and device connectivity.
“Industrial companies choose PTC to capitalize on the transformative value of the IoT, elevating their position in the competitive market and achieving the full potential of a smart, connected business,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “We are honored by this accolade from ABI Research that recognizes our innovation and positions PTC as the industry leader. With the ongoing support from customers and our strategic partnership with Rockwell Automation, PTC will continue to deliver on our commitment to the industrial space.”
Additionally, PTC’s ThingWorx was rated the overall leading platform with advanced innovative initiatives across transformative technologies. ThingWorx is comprised of a rapid application development platform, advanced analytics, connectivity, machine learning, augmented reality, and integration with leading device clouds. Together, these beginning-to-end capabilities enable users to create revolutionary applications and services to achieve IoT-driven business transformation and support digital initiatives across various industries.
“PTC’s innovation in areas such as augmented reality, protocol adaptability and connectivity, and digital twin capabilities solidified the company’s spot as the industry leader,” said Pierce Owen, principal analyst, Smart Manufacturing, ABI Research. “Assessed by implementation and innovation, ABI Research recognizes PTC’s capability to advance industrial transformation and revolutionize the industry.”
The recognition from ABI Research continues a long string of industry recognition from press and industry analysts around the world, including Forrester, 451 Research, Compass Intelligence, Experton Group, Gartner, IDC, IoT Analytics, Berg Insight, IoT ONE, and Quadrant Knowledge Solutions. Most recently, PTC’s ThingWorx has been heralded as the leading platform from Constellation Research and has been awarded IoT Evolution Product of the Year.
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Stuttgart, Germany: At this year’s AMB exhibition, Sandvik Coromant intends to show how customers and partners can achieve significantly higher productivity levels, more flexible machining processes and more sustainable production under the strapline ‘Shaping the future together’. For instance, the global specialist in cutting tools and tooling systems will be revealing how it is revolutionizing the world of turning, improving the entire manufacturing process with digital connectivity solutions and offering fascinating possibilities for the automotive and aerospace industries.
On Stand E50 in Hall 1, Sandvik Coromant will present digital solutions designed for smarter machining and greater manufacturing efficiency. These innovations will include CoroPlus ToolGuide, which provides fast and precise tool recommendations for the specific operation and material type, as well as CoroPlus ToolLibrary, which enables users to integrate tool assemblies directly into their digital machining environment. Along with software that helps improve design and production planning, the company will showcase connected tooling solutions and process-control solutions.
Trade visitors can also discover the latest technologies in the fields of turning, milling and drilling at the 375 m2 stand. Included will be turning solutions such as CoroCut QD for cutting with the Y axis. CoroCut QD uses the potential of modern turning centres and multi-tasking machines to guide the tool in the Y direction, positioning the upper side of the indexable insert parallel to the end of the blade. This capability enables faster feed speeds and the machining of longer overhangs without loss of stability.
Also being promoted at the show will be the PrimeTurning process for turning in all directions. Manufacturers in the automotive and aerospace industries, in particular, can benefit since PrimeTurning is extremely versatile. Indeed, the process is suitable for turning short, compact components, for longitudinal turning, and for machining contours and front-end geometries.
“We are looking forward to another great AMB because this trade show always offers an excellent opportunity to meet customers and partners personally in order to optimize future co-operation,” says Josse Coudré, General Manager Sales Area Central Europe at Sandvik Coromant. “We are proud to present our high-end solutions in Stuttgart, all of which are designed to help manufacturers become more efficient, productive and profitable.”
Thanks to numerous co-operations with machine manufacturers, including being a co-exhibitor on the DMG Mori stand, solutions from Sandvik Coromant will be on display in many places around the exhibition. Sandvik Coromant is also one of the sponsors and speakers at the special two-day AMB show ‘Digital Way 2018 – Digital Paths in Production’.
With a relentless implementation of new technologies combined with a surge in investment deals, it is not erroneous to say that the automotive industry in Southeast Asia is experiencing a positive transition. Before the proposed introduction of Vietnam’s VinFast, Malaysia was the only Southeast Asian nation that had its own national car, in the form of Proton. Having said this, the automotive market of not only Vietnam, but the Philippines has seen tremendous growth and should be lauded by the ASEAN community.
Automotive sector in the Philippines
According to a forecast by Frost & Sullivan, the number of new car sales in the Philippines (both commercial and passenger cars) will grow 11.5% to 576,959 units this year.
Over the next five years, the Philippine economy is expected to grow by 6-7% due to consumer expenditure and investment, with new car sales supported by strong economic improvement. The manufacturing industry in the country has expanded by over 7% since 2010. Participating in the automotive industry revitalisation initiative (Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy or CARS program), Toyota Motor Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors’ overseas subsidiaries will have a positive impact on local production capacity.
This automotive progress is facilitated by a pledge made by the Philippine government that will oversee a US$160 billion infrastructure upgrade in Manila. This initiative encompasses the building of roads that are of higher quality than before. President Rodrigo Duterte has also upped the ante by planning the construction of more highways that could offset traffic congestion in the capital. Such a move might potentially lead to an increase in car owners. It is also worth noting that 61 of the 75 important projects of the national infrastructure development plan or ‘Build Build Build’ relates to the automotive/transportation sector.
Automotive progress in Vietnam
With the car ownership rate in Vietnam at about 20 units per 1,000 people, the domestic automotive market has tremendous potential for further growth, with consumption-oriented, middle-income households being a catalyst for this shift. A report by Frost & Sullivan has highlighted that new car sales volume in 2018 is expected to grow to 256,000 units, up 6.8% from last year.
Furthermore, a steady elimination of tariffs for passenger cars through free trade agreements (FTA) will create positive ripples across the automotive pond, this year. Not only that, demand for commercial vehicles is expected to increase due to infrastructure development projects that are focused on road traffic.
According to Reuters, a point that could strengthen Vietnam’s current automotive success is the building of a car factory by Vingroup, the country’s leading property dealer in a project worth US$1-1.5 billion in the first phase. VinFast, Vingroup’s construction brand, is responsible for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Credit Suisse for the bank to extend US$800 million in financing the project.
However, there are potential challenges that might come to the fore, which could possibly hinder new car sales growth in Vietnam. The issuance of Decree 116, which was introduced in October of last year, has tightened controls for imported automobiles in terms of origin, types, technical safety, and environment protection requirements. As a consequence, automobile juggernauts like Toyota and Honda have announced a halt to exporting cars to Vietnam because they are unable to obtain a Vehicle Type Approval (VTA) certification issued by authorities in the exporting country.
This divisive clause may spell an end to small-scale auto importers in the country, as there will be minimal probability that international car manufacturers are agreeable to allowing an unofficial dealer to recall any of their products.
The expanding automotive sectors of both, the Philippines and Vietnam should be commended. The potential release of VinFast in Vietnam and Duterte’s proposed infrastructure plans in the Philippines could spur success for the automotive sectors of these two countries. The competition among automotive players in the region could possibly be the catalyst that propels ASEAN’s automotive industry to greater heights in the coming years.
The next phase in manufacturing sees 3D visualisation systems at the heart of more efficient, cheaper, highly customisable goods. By Louis Loh, Sales Leader for DELMIA at Dassault Systèmes