Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr. Vincent Tang, Regional Vice President of Asia in Epicor on his views on Industry 4.0 megatrends in Southeast Asia.
1. In your opinion, what are the top three megatrends that are shaping Industry 4.0 in Southeast Asia?
Industry 4.0 is a hot topic in Southeast Asia, North Asia as well as regions outside of Asia such as the U.S. The term originated in Germany and is known by different names globally. For example, in China it is known as “Made In China 2025” and in the U.S it is known as smart manufacturing.
The trends shaping Industry 4.0 does not just involve ERP systems, it involves manufacturing execution systems, the extraction of data and its translation into meaningful information, big data, product lifecycle management (PLM) and the integration of robotics into processes. This means that Industry 4.0 is a long journey and companies begin their journeys at different points. For example, some companies may begin first with the implementation of an ERP system while others may not.
In Southeast Asia, Industry 4.0 is encouraged by government support through means such as grants and funding. This has allowed the region to advance in terms of the manufacturing technologies.
2. What are the key challenges that prevent manufacturers in Southeast Asia from digitalising and integrating artificial intelligence as well as data science into their manufacturing processes?
Retaining and attracting talent is the top challenge that prevents manufacturers from digitalising. In factories that are not fully automated, factors such as the increased amount of paperwork and high surrounding temperatures and harsh external environments may contribute to staff turnovers.
Additionally, the integrated implementation of automation is a challenge to some manufacturers in the region. This can occur because manufacturers may implement automation as a phase by phase process instead of as an integrated solution. For example, the accountancy department may be automated first before the inventory control department is automated.
Finally, manufacturers may find it challenging to successfully implement ERP systems. This could be because the successful implementation of ERP systems involves more than one key user, as it is a team effort. One that involves more than monetary investments and individual contributions. For mid-market companies, they possess limited ERP resources and budgets for ERP implementation and also require ERP systems to be installed in a short period of time – typically within six to nine months. These companies also tend to require flexibility.
3. How do you suggest that the above challenges be solved?
Departments can be integrated to increase the opportunities for rapid decision making and for different issues to be highlighted.
Productivity can also be increased due to the shortage of labour globally, especially in China which is also the largest manufacturer in the world. Although labour costs in China used to be lower, factors such as the one child policy has caused labour shortages and increased labour costs. While in Southeast Asia labour shortages are less severe and labour costs are cheaper, as in the case of countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.
Overall, the solution that is applied needs to be an integrated end to end solution. For example, processes that range from manufacturing to scheduling to finances have to be integrated. The solution that is applied has to also be multi-dimensional, multi-language based and focused on multi-localisation. This is because of the differing regulations in different countries that would require localised solutions to cater to it.
4. In 5 to 10 years time, how do you think the manufacturing industry in Southeast Asia will evolve?
The industry will continue to grow. This is because of the China-US trade war, as a lot of manufacturing companies are considering subcontracting their manufacturing operations to countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, to overcome restrictions when it comes to exporting to the U.S. This can be seen in the case of South Korean manufacturer, Samsung, which has moved its operations to Vietnam.
Thus, in Southeast Asia, manufacturing will continue to grow and this will be facilitated by Industry 4.0 and infrastructural developments such as the Belt and Road Initiative that will connect Bangkok and China via a high speed train.
5. What are your thoughts on the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific event? Do you think this is the right time for an event like this?
The event occurred at just the right time. Different countries are at different stages of their development and the delegates that attend the event are keen to find out how they can engage in Industry 4.0 and where they are in their journeys towards Industry 4.0.
The event has also attracted over 1,800 registrations and I am able to meet a lot of individuals from Indonesia, Thailand and China. Everybody is working around the concept of industrial automation and it involves areas such as PLM, big data, manufacturing execution systems (MES), robotics, ERPs and integrated solutions.
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