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Interview With Mr. Vincent Tang, Regional Vice President of Asia in Epicor

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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Bringing Industry 4.0 To Life

Bringing Industry 4.0 To Life

The manufacturing world has already decided to get on board the Industry 4.0 bandwagon. But where exactly is this wagon going to take us in a world that is getting very interconnected as we speak? Craig Charlton, SVP, Asia Pacific Operations, Epicor gives us the lowdown 

Manufacturing has come a long way since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. The second Industrial Revolution in the 1900s saw the introduction of mass production. In the late 1960s, electronics and the automation of production lines entered the industrial environment. Now, we are benefitting from robotics and are beginning to discover the value of 3D printing. We are on the cusp of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution.

Over the next decade, Industry 4.0 will emerge to meet consumer demand for tailor made products at affordable prices – from mobile phones, to cars and from household goods to wood ceiling installations. At the same time it will give manufacturers access to highly flexible mass production processes that can be rapidly adapted to market changes.

This will happen by marrying the world of production and networking in an Internet of Things (IoT) environment. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) will become even more central to production in this environment. The ERP system will become the backbone to the network; connecting smart machines, logistics systems, production facilities, sensors and devices as products and machines communicate with each other and exchange commands as products move the production line.

ERP vendors need to move away from pre-built interfaces and formulas to develop highly connected systems that conduct operations at the production line level, whilst giving business decision makers the real-time data they require. So what would this ERP system look like, how exactly would it behave and how should we go about embracing systems like it?

The Industry 4.0 ERP system will fully integrate with manufacturing execution systems (MES). As a result, it will be possible to track and document the transformation of raw materials through to finished goods.

Taking a bottling plant as an example, each bottle will have a RFID chip for the manufacturing process. This will contain all of the information about the product including the drink that will go in the bottle, the label it needs and the lid colour. When the bottle reaches the first workstation in the production line, the RFID chip will send a message to the MES, which will direct the machine to fill the bottle with the correct liquid. Once complete, the action will be registered on the RFID chip and the bottle will move onto the next work station.

With this level of intelligent connectivity, the ERP will be able to process production analytics data and line status reporting. Sales teams and management staff will be able to access this real-time information via an ERP dashboard to optimise conditions on the plant floor and improve orders and production output as well as inform sales processes and business forecasting.

Industry 4.0 means we will need to access ERP in new ways. In recent research 65 percent of business decision makers said that mobile access to ERP will become increasingly important, with 43 percent wanting that access through their smartphone and 38 percent via a tablet device.

The ERP for Industry 4.0 will allow employees to network around projects, using the system as a social collaboration tool. According to research over half (57 percent) say this will be beneficial in terms of customer and supplier communication as staff will be able to use the ERP to share knowledge and find solutions to problems on a project-by-project basis.

ERP will act as a single source for business intelligence in the age of Industry 4.0, presenting business decision makers with know-how, context or benefits, when they need it. An intelligent Industry 4.0 factory will, for example, remove the data discontinuities between a customer order and the production scheduling/ raw materials process, allowing all elements of the business to benefit from its data – whether that’s sales teams or production.

In order to benefit from the ERP systems of Industry 4.0 already today, businesses can follow these simple steps

Analyse current ERP use:

If your business is already using ERP, it’s time to think about how it fits with your business. How many users engage with it? Can this be improved with training? Is it time to start using ERP on mobile devices to take utilisation to the next level?

Embrace the latest technology:

When it comes to manufacturing, the industry is currently benefitting from exciting new innovations. 3D printing is already starting to change how we make things, as manufacturers use the technology to build models before production begins. Using the latest technology will help prepare a business for Industry 4.0 and its ERP.

Set goals:

As with any new implementation, it’s important to set KPIs. Measuring the effects of the new ERP will help businesses to understand its benefits and ROI. In Germany, the National Academy of Science and Engineering has estimated that Industry 4.0 could lead to a 30 per cent increase in industrial productivity, so if a business is able to meet the challenge of Industry 4.0 with an integrated and intelligent ERP at its core, it can expect to benefit significantly.

Collaborate across all business departments:

To get the most out of ERP in the world on Industry 4.0, businesses need to start sharing their knowledge across departments now. For example, knowledge of sales targets can improve the performance on the production line and stock data can help manage delivery planning.

The fourth Industrial Revolution hasn’t been fully embraced by the manufacturing world yet but when it does, we will see intelligent factories, with machines and products cooperatively driving production. Those businesses that have the technology – and processes – in place to optimise the new environment will thrive and we can expect ERP to be the glue pulling all operations together.

Epicor: IScala 3.1

Epicor: iScala 3.1

The new version of Epicor’s iScala ERP introduces both online and offline mobile application for Google Android and Apple IOS.

The iScala 3.1 software’s key features and enhancements include: continued security enhancements in the Epicor Service, connect integration and business collaboration platform, new capabilities in the Electronic Compliance Platform designed to deliver structured output reports, and the introduction of mobile applications that simplify key operational tasks.

All iScala routines now run in a single application window, making it easier to see what is running, and also to switch between different areas.

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