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The Future Of Manufacturing Lies In Transparency And Connectivity

The Future Of Manufacturing Lies In Transparency And Connectivity

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Wong Seng Yeow, Business Development Manager at TRUMPF regarding current trends in the metrology and manufacturing industry.

  1. Could you provide us with an overview of the current trends regarding the manufacturing industry?

The manufacturing industry has evolved significantly over time – from steam engines to mass production with electricity, then automation and in recent years Industry 4.0. The latest trend may be described as the digital networking of manufacturing technology with big data and analytics, autonomous robots, Internet of Things, etc. Sometimes known as the fourth industrial revolution, it signifies the combination of traditional industrial practices with digital technology.

A key driving force for Industry 4.0 applications is the increased transparency and flexibility for the manufacturing industry. In the model of a Smart Factory production line, companies may analyse and respond optimally to fluctuations in production capacity and factory utilisation. Flexible production layouts allow them to deal with increasingly individualised products and reduced batch sizes, coupled with the possibility of reducing costs through increase in the degree of automation and improved efficiency. Another advantage is production stability through the adoption of predictive maintenance. Self-monitoring and regular evaluation of machines helps in preventive maintenance which leads to increased productivity and quality.  In cases of machine breakdowns, remote servicing may be done at significantly lower cost.

In a nutshell, the trend toward Industry 4.0 enables digitally managed product assembly, inventory management, resources management and service maintenance. Ideally, human intervention will be considerably reduced as processes will be largely managed and performed with artificial intelligence.

  1. With increasing digitalisation, how has TRUMPF kept up with these trends to remain competitive?

Amidst challenging business environment, TRUMPF has always managed to rise above its competition by upholding one of the company’s guiding principles “Courage to transform”. From the development of plasma cutters to EUV laser, this notion has played an integral role in empowering the company to take courageous, transformative decisions over the past decades. In the same vein, it sets the right framework for an effective digital transformation.

Over the years, digitalisation has already permeated many areas of our business. An example of this trend is the conceptualisation of TruConnect, TRUMPF Machine Tool’s advanced range of solutions for connected sheet metal fabrication, comprising of hardware, software and services. The suite of products lays the foundation for production facilities to streamline control with minimal human intervention. Within TruConnect, key products such as TruTops Fab software are testaments to TRUMPF’s dedication to commercialise solutions based on its digital ambition. They are our answers to customers’ rising expectations of quality as they struggle with diminishing batch sizes, fast delivery times and low prices.

  1. What are the main challenges faced by this industry in Asia?

Key challenges for digitalisation of the manufacturing industry in Asia include inadequate infrastructural readiness, awareness and knowledge competency.

In mature markets such as Europe, the knowledge and infrastructure required to reap the benefits of technology are present. However, in regions such as Southeast Asia, the extent of adoption of new technologies is limited as information technology infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped in emerging markets such as Myanmar.

Digitalization might still be a foreign topic to some companies as well as the potential advantages that follows, such as achieving operational transparency through data analytics. To the less-informed, digital transformation is a process which translates into unsavoury repercussions such as job displacement.

The unwillingness to embrace digitalisation also stems from the fact that employees are not sufficiently trained and equipped with the necessary knowledge. Without fully appreciating the advantages of digitalisation, decision makers will not be willing to incur cost to train employees with the required skillset means placing additional strain on their tight budgets.

  1. How can they be overcome?

Adoption of Industry 4.0 applications in Asia can be successfully implemented when the government, local companies and key industry leaders such as TRUMPF work together.

On the part of local manufacturing companies, it is first important to implement the digital strategy from top down. Decision makers should proactively analyse the process, tools and benefits of digitalisation. It is also crucial to address the unfounded insecurity of employees who have concerns about being replaced by new technology. In this regard, companies may seize the chance to train its labour force to be digitally-skilled, thereby enabling them to handle higher level processes. With a supportive workforce, companies can achieve a smooth end-to-end integration of their data and operational process.

As a market leader in the manufacturing industry, TRUMPF intends to continue empowering manufacturing companies in their digitalisation journey by offering solutions and services which suit their various needs. For instance, TRUMPF is committed to develop the South East Asian industry by educating manufacturers in the region on digitalisation through the TruConnect solution. Advance production-planning softwares and Smart Factory consultancy services are designed to support customers in their digitalisation journey through a step-by-step approach – first assessing existing manufacturing layout, identifying bottlenecks and challenges, then proposing technology solutions to optimise manufacturing processes and operations. That said, digitalisation should not be perceived as a one-time process but as a continuous transformation which should be sustained.

Naturally, TRUMPF also works closely with government agencies such as the Singapore Economic Development Board to develop the market infrastructure and constantly nurture companies in the region.

  1. Moving forward, where do you think the industry is headed in the next 5 to 10 years?

Over the next years, market condition will be increasingly difficult as companies compete not only on price but on efficiency as well. In such a market environment, a company’s success will depend on its courage to transform. As digitalisation allows the creation of new businesses and growth opportunities, a shift in dynamics can be expected as the industry consolidates – only players who are able to successfully digitalise will survive and thrive.

The future of manufacturing lies in transparency and connectivity. For TRUMPF, the majority of sales is still expected to come from machinery, but software and digital services will play an increasingly significant role. With an eye on growing our market share, we will continue to be the leading provider of new digital solutions in the manufacturing industry.



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Impact Of The US-China Trade War On Vietnam’s Manufacturing Sector

Impact Of The US-China Trade War On Vietnam’s Manufacturing Sector

In 2018, disbursement of FDI projects in Vietnam reached a record high of USD 19.1 billion, showing the high confidence of foreign investors in Vietnam’s business and investment environments. This is an increase of 9.1 percent year-on-year amid global concerns over the tension caused by the US China Trade War. Additionally, the rapid growth of both privately and state run enterprises such as Vingroup or Viettel is an indication of Vietnam’s economy prosperity and the fact that the country’s business environment is capable of nourishing large corporations of global scale.

However, as tensions over the Trade War continue to escalate in 2019, uncertainly over the status of the global manufacturing sector has continued to plague the industry and much attention has been focused on Vietnam due to the country’s status as an emerging manufacturing hub. Currently, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion worth of Chinese imports while China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on a cumulative value of USD 110 billion worth of US imports.

In short-term, Vietnam is projected to capture some of China’s global market share in labour-intensive manufacturing, although, in the long-term it is uncertain if Vietnam will continue to benefit from the displacement of manufacturing from China. This is because, Vietnam could face the risk of trade frauds as China looks to route US-bound products through the country to evade existing tariffs at an increasing pace. Furthermore, there is also the risk of Chinese products saturating the Vietnamese market, resulting in increased competition with domestic producers.

Thus, as the trade war drags on, experts have advised Vietnam to develop a new development strategy to evade potential risks. This is also due to the fact that global investors are starting to withdraw their investments from emerging markets, including Vietnam.


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Contraction Of Singapore’s Manufacturing Sector For Fourth Consecutive Month

Contraction Of Singapore’s Manufacturing Sector For Fourth Consecutive Month

Singapore’s manufacturing sector has contracted again in December 2018, with the key electronics sector declining further. This is aligned to a weakening global outlook for the manufacturing sector and the current fallout between the US and China, as well as the overall decline in manufacturing in South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia.

In fact, Singapore’s overall Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), dipped 0.4 points in December 2018, reaching 51.1. This is barely above a reading of 50 which indicates that growth has occurred. Similarly, the electronics sector, which saw its first contraction after 27 consecutive months of growth in November 2018, dropped 0.1 points to 49.8 in December 2018 according to the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM).

Meanwhile, China’s official manufacturing PMI that was released on January 2019 indicated that the country’s manufacturing sector has sank into the contraction territory for the first time since July 2016, while the Caixin manufacturing PMI also contracted to 49.7, which is the lowest figure that the index has dropped to since May 2017. This was a decrement that stands below analyst expectations.

Regarding this, the SIPMM has commented that the lower overall PMI reading can be attributed to slower growth in new orders and new exports, factory output, inventory, as well as employment level. Additionally, it can be taken into account that the indexes of finished goods, imports, input prices and supplier deliveries also expanded at a lower rate, while the order backlog index has continued to contract for three consecutive months. Alvin Liew, a Senior Economist at UOB has further added that the weaker PMI is most probably linked to a slowdown of China’s growth and the corresponding drop in demand for Singapore’s goods and services that are tied to China’s economy. He also projected that a continued slowdown is likely to occur due to many factors such as a decrease in China’s growth, uncertain trade developments between the US and China, as well as a global electronics cycle downturn.


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Global Laser Cutting Market To Hit US$5.7 Billion By 2022

Global Laser Cutting Market To Hit US$5.7 Billion By 2022

The global laser cutting market has a projected CAGR of 9.3 percent from 2016 to 2023 and will grow to reach US$5.7 billion by 2022. This can be attributed to heightened production demands from various industries and the shift towards automation. With regards to the automotive, consumer electronics and defense industries, their growth has resulted in an increased demand for machines that drive manufacturing processes and these has in turn spurred the growth of the laser cutting industry.

Currently, alternatives to laser cutting such as offer similar features and are able to offer some benefits that laser cutting cannot provide. However, the market competition posed by these alternatives are expected to dwindle with time due to the constant technological improvements that laser technologies are experiencing.

Based on technology, the laser cutting market can be segmented into solid state lasers, gas lasers and semiconductor lasers. Solid state laser was the highest revenue contributor and comprised about 40 percent of the total market share in 2015. However, gas laser is expected to witness rapid growth till 2023.

Although the US contributes significantly to the growth of the industry, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing region moving forward. This can be attributed to an increase in the number of manufacturing facilities and the growing purchasing power of consumers in developing nations.


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Vietnam To Welcome More South Korean Investments

Vietnam To Welcome More South Korean Investments

South Korea has emerged as the top investor in Vietnam with US$60 billion worth of investments in the country as of 2018. This can be attributed to investments from mega companies such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai Motor, SK, Lotte, POSCO, CJ, Hanwha, LH Corp, Shinhan, Kumho, and Hyosung. To top this off, South Korean firms are continually seeking to expand investments in Vietnam due to the improvement in business conditions and implementation of effective policies over the past years.
In fact, during a meeting between South Korea officials and executives and the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung, it has been elaborated that conducive business policies, have translated into better macroeconomic indicators which in turn allow for other sectors and FDI to grow. Kim Tae Soo, Head of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) has also added that, South Korean investors are interested in the infrastructure, logistics, manufacturing, automobile, agriculture, and food processing sectors within Vietnam. And the EDCF will work to speed up the disbursement of soft loans to help Vietnamese firms conduct projects under a public-private partnership (PPP).
To add to this, the South Korean government also considers Vietnam as the key pillar in its “Look South” policy and South Korea’s linkage to Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.


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Business Expectations Of Singapore’s Manufacturing Sector (Oct 2018 To Mar 2019)

Business Expectations Of Singapore’s Manufacturing Sector (Oct 2018 to Mar 2019)

A majority of firms (a weighted 81 percent) in the manufacturing sector expects the business situation in the next six months to remain similar to a quarter ago. A weighted nine percent of manufacturers expects business conditions to improve while a weighted 10 percent foresees a softer business outlook. Overall, a net weighted balance of one percent of manufacturers anticipates a less favourable business situation for the period October 2018 – March 2019, compared to the third quarter of 2018.

Within the manufacturing sector, the transport engineering cluster is the most optimistic about business conditions, with a net weighted balance of 21 percent of firms expecting improvement, compared to a quarter ago. In the marine & offshore engineering segment, the oil & gas field equipment manufacturers anticipate more orders on the back of firmer oil prices. The shipyards foresee more ship repairing work while offshore rig orders remain subdued. Additionally, in the aerospace segment, firms continue to expect strong demand for aircraft engine repair in the next six months.

In the biomedical manufacturing cluster, a net weighted balance of six percent of firms foresee a favourable operating environment in the next six months. This positive sentiment is largely due to the medical technology segment which expects export orders to remain strong.

The rest of the manufacturing clusters are less optimistic about business prospects compared to a quarter ago. In particular, the machinery & systems segment in the precision engineering cluster and the infocomms & consumer electronics segment in the electronic cluster anticipate weaker orders, given growing concerns over the global trade tensions.

Output Forecast for October – December 2018

Compared to the third quarter of 2018, a net weighted balance of two percent of manufacturers expects output to increase in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The biomedical manufacturing cluster is the most optimistic, with a net weighted balance of 27 per cent of firms projecting a higher level of production in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to a quarter ago. The medical technology segment projects increased output to meet export demand for medical devices. In addition, the pharmaceuticals segment forecasts higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and biologics in the next three months.

A net weighted balance of 19 per cent of firms in the transport engineering cluster expects a higher level of activity in the next three months. The aerospace segment anticipates more aircraft engine repairs while the marine & offshore engineering segment foresees more ship repairing work.

A net weighted balance of 12 percent of firms in the general manufacturing industries cluster projects increased output in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to previous quarter. Within the cluster, the food, beverages & tobacco segment anticipates higher production due in part to the year-end festive demand. In addition, the miscellaneous industries segment expects higher output of batteries as export demand from Europe and the US remains strong.

By contrast, the precision engineering cluster is the least upbeat, with a net weighted balance of 23 percent of firms projecting a fall in production level in the fourth quarter of 2018. The weaker production outlook is largely due to the machinery and systems segment, which anticipates lower production due to uncertainties in demand amid global trade tensions.

Employment Forecast For October – December 2018

A majority of firms (a weighted 85 percent) in the manufacturing sector expects the employment level in the next three months ending December 2018 to remain similar to a quarter ago. Overall, a net weighted balance of one percent of manufacturers plans to hire fewer workers in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to the third quarter. Among the manufacturing clusters, the electronics, precision, transport engineering and general manufacturing industries clusters expect to hire fewer workers for the period October – December 2018.

Factors Affecting Export Orders For October – December 2018

A majority of firms (a weighted 70 percent) in the manufacturing sector reported no limiting factors that would affect their ability to obtain export orders in the fourth quarter of 2018. A weighted 25 percent of firms, on the other hand, indicated price competition from overseas competitors, and economic and political conditions abroad as the top two limiting factors that could affect their export orders.

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Interview With Mr. Debashis Tarafdar, Principal Advisor, Supply Chain, From Ecosystm

Interview With Mr. Debashis Tarafdar, Principal Advisor, Supply Chain, From Ecosystm

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr. Debashis Tarafdar, Principal Advisor, Supply Chain, Ecosystm to discuss the up and coming trends affecting supply chain networks in the manufacturing industry.

Interview With Mr. Debashis Tarafdar, Principal Advisor, Supply Chain, From Ecosystm

1. Could you provide an overview of the current trends regarding supply chains that are integrated to manufacturing networks in the Asian metalworking industry?

There are several trends that are impacting the Asian metalworking industry supply chain at the moment. The global economic recovery seems to be underway, and that is good news for the metalworking industry particularly in the industrial machinery and automotive sectors. However, uncertainties remain with the prospect of trade wars and geopolitical conflicts. A set of issues specific to this industry has been emerging for a few years now. Technological advances in material science and engineering impacting tooling and workholding processes – enabling more productive and accurate outputs with increased tool life. Industry 4.0, IoT, smarter sensors and connected machines have great potential in controlling and monitoring machining processes and taking corrective actions proactively, contributing to lower downtime and higher yield. Smarter machines equipped with smart sensors are at the heart of a smart factory and will have significant impact on the interconnected supply chains of tomorrow. Additive manufacturing is enabling complex but low volume work that was difficult to achieve through traditional machining processes. However, shortage of skilled labour is one of the issues that this industry must deal with, in order to ensure sustainable improvements in productivity and growth.

2. With the digitalisation of manufacturing processes in Asia, how can supply chains evolve to keep up with the changes?

With increasingly demanding customers and a globalised competitive environment, adopting digitalisation is a must for achieving a demand-driven supply chain management strategy. Supply chain processes need to be integrated from customers to suppliers, with seamless information access both upstream and downstream. Smart factories and smart processes that are highly adaptive, with a high degree of automation and robotics will be the key to success – helping organisations improve their service and lowering costs at the same time.

3. Within the context of Asia, what are the biggest challenges to the optimisation of supply chains within manufacturing networks?

I think the biggest challenge in Asia is the mindset, as global organisations aggressively adopt digital business. The majority of the organisations today are still silo-ed in their approach and are highly cost-focused instead of growth and service focused. To me, the definition of digital business is that it is “a solution-centric business approach to deliver customer value through process innovations that connect people, technology and “things” to drive revenue and efficiency.” A large proportion of Asian manufacturers are still product-focused rather than solution-focused, which makes them intrinsically internally-focused, and that in my opinion is the biggest hurdle. The industry needs to analyse what defines “value” for their customers, and deliver tailored solutions to create a win-win. Without the correct perspective, optimisation efforts may well lead to sub-optimal results.

4. How can the challenges mentioned above be overcome?

Organisations need to adopt an outside-in approach to managing supply chains, as well as integrate supply chain processes from an end-to-end perspective. Real-time visibility of both in-process and extended supply chain metrics is important for making the right trade-offs. Along the way, companies also need to consider the stage of maturity that their digital supply chains are at. There is a continuum of digital supply chain maturity that exists from “ad-hoc” to “developing” to “leading”. Through a systematic and structured understanding of the maturity level and associated capability gaps, supply chain leaders can develop programs that will help progress the maturity over a period of time, thereby delivering improved customer and stakeholder value as well as better return on assets and capital.

5. In the next 5-10 years, what will be the technologies that drive supply chains in Asia?

Key technologies that will drive supply chains in Asia in the next 5-10 years are rapid planning and optimisation capabilities with analytics and a control tower approach – enabling predictive decision-making, at the minimum. At the next level, improved customer centricity and better service will need IoT and smart machines as an integral part of the end-to-end supply chain, enabling prescriptive decision-making. And finally machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence capabilities will enable cognitive decision-making across the extended supply chain, powering industry ecosystems that will work towards a common goal delivering customer value.


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KeysightCare Aims To Provide Proactive Engineering Support

KeysightCare Aims To Provide Proactive Engineering Support

Keysight has announced the launch of KeysightCare, a new service model that offers design and test engineers dedicated, proactive support for instruments, software, and solutions.

Poor equipment maintenance can lead to costly errors that delay product development and put a customer’s potential market advantages at risk. Addressing these issues starts with keeping equipment up-to-date with the latest software and current calibration. KeysightCare offers unparalleled access to a range of resources such as technical experts, training materials, productivity tools, knowledge centers, and success managers, to speed customer innovation, and accelerate product time-to-market. KeysightCare provides:

  • A choice of service-level agreements that help prioritize support and deliver rapid response times via a dedicated portal that tracks support cases and offers access to relevant expert information
  • Improved predictability of projects with scheduled calibration of test equipment and certified precision to support the intense demands of the latest industry applications and standards
  • Insight into potential issues before they happen, with proactive notifications of the latest software and firmware updates, and access to online resources such as the Keysight Knowledge Center and productivity tools
  • Enhanced productivity of engineering teams with dedicated access to experts who possess deep knowledge and understanding of current and changing technologies, as well as industry standards

“Our customers need to meet a faster technology development cycle. They cannot be late due to delays caused by lack of software and hardware updates, test equipment failure, test methodology questions, or equipment calibration requirements,” stated John Page, president of Keysight Global Services. “KeysightCare offers enhanced service levels that will enable engineers to deliver better, faster results, consistently.”

KeysightCare is offered in three service levels: Assured, Enhanced and Performance:

KeysightCare Assured Delivers Fast Support
The KeysightCare Assured service level offers committed response time to get customers the technical answers they need, faster.  A customer portal delivers access to a cloud-based knowledge base containing the latest information developed through decades of R&D and test experience, plus online support to manage service requests, and access to expert advice related to test and measurement challenges.
KeysightCare Assured will be enabled on select products shipping after December 3rd, 2018.

KeysightCare Enhanced Delivers Priority Support
The KeysightCare Enhanced service level enables customers to avoid costly errors and delays with ongoing calibration, personalised support, and faster response times with a customer service manager focused on quickly identifying the procedure, test expert, or equipment updates needed to address a specific challenge.

KeysightCare Performance Delivers Enterprise Support
The KeysightCare Performance service level is ideal for customers focused on being first to market or who have a mission-critical project. It offers all the benefits of the previous tiers, plus emergency access to support outside normal business hours, and on-site services designed to keep customers efficiently operating from design to manufacturing.


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Interview With Mr. David Chia, Automation Charter Chair Of The Singapore Industrial Automation Association

Interview With Mr. David Chia, Automation Charter Chair Of The Singapore Industrial Automation Association

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr. David Chia, Automation Charter Chair of the Singapore Industrial Automation Association on his views on the future of manufacturing technologies in Asia and the impact of the current trade war on the industry.

Interview With Mr. David Chia, Automation Charter Chair Of The Singapore Industrial Automation Association

1.Could you provide an overview of the key trends that have shaped the manufacturing industry in Asia in 2018?

We see some key trends emerging this year:

  • Digitalisation in the drive towards more manufacturing productivity, we are witnessing more and more companies (mostly MNCs) develop and execute their digitisation plans. Each sensor data, each module conditions, each machine performance are getting collected and sent to the cloud, where the data engineers and scientists are waiting. Driving business insights from those data is now no longer a dream, but an imperative corporate goal to ensure survival and growth.
  • Adoption of open standards. Digitisation is not possible without the existence of the underlying IoT technologies. Without a common standard, it would’ve been very expensive for individual companies to develop and deploy their own standards, thereby slowing down the whole digitisation process. MQTT seems to gain a very wide acceptance as the communication technology of choice here. It is quickly becoming the de facto standard to communicate with the cloud. Meanwhile OPC UA is becoming the protocol of choice for device and machine intercommunication on the factory floor.
  • Governmental push towards Industry 4.0. Singapore is blessed with a forward looking government who has put out the initiative as early as 2014. However, government in the ASEAN region is quickly catching up. One example is Indonesia, who announced this year their own roadmap to Industry 4.0. Having such a large manufacturing base in the country, it is encouraging that the government has focused on five sectors: Food & Beverage, Chemical, Textile, Automotive, and Electronics industries. We can expect other governments in the region to do the same soon.

2. What has been the top 3 biggest challenges in the digitalisation of manufacturing in Asia?

The biggest challenges are funding, technology standards, and talent.

  • Funding, this is probably the biggest challenge facing SMEs. Digitisation is relatively a new concept in manufacturing space. Very few companies can claim that they have done it successfully. In the absence of such successful case studies, it is quite difficult to get the appropriate funding.
  • Technological standards. While some standards in some areas are quite established, they are not monopolies. For example, when we look into the area of fieldbus, there’s a plethora of options out there: old vs new standards, serial based vs Ethernet based, and a variety of ways that these standards work. This presents a challenge for the implementer of digitisation to get the data from different machines or different part of the plants.
  • Unfortunately for companies embarking on digitisation journey, it is not a one month journey. There is no single off the shelf components or a plug and play software solution to perform digitisation. For many companies, digitisation is a multi-year multi-stage efforts. Getting the right people to perform different functions along this journey is a challenge. Retaining the talents is probably a bigger challenge. Meanwhile the factory floor workers must be re-trained to get up to date with the latest digitisation initiative that the company is embarking on.

3. How do you suggest that the challenges that have been mentioned above be overcome?

It will take some efforts from different stakeholders to overcome those challenges:

  • Companies should collaborate more to create common standards. There are more to gain from standardisation than competition. Germany is leading this effort and they have done quite well. VDMA is leading the machine standardisation for Germany. Countries in the ASEAN region may need to follow on their footsteps.
  • Governments across the region should help in the funding of digitisation initiative. This is very important for SMEs. While big players have easy access to funding, small SMEs are facing a big challenge here. Governments can come in and fill the funding gap in the short to medium term.
  • Re-training and upskilling the workforce is needed. We are facing shortages in data engineers, data scientists, data analysts in the region. While some manufacturing jobs will eventually disappear as an effect of digitisation, new ones will be created. However, those new jobs creation are on the higher end of the skill spectrum, hence the importance of educational institutes.

4. How has the trade war impacted manufacturing in Asia in 2018 and how will it continue to impact the industry in 2019?

There’s an old saying that goes where one door closes, another opens. This is true in the current trade war situation. It creates uncertainty on one hand, but it creates opportunity on another hand. We are seeing more investment flowing to other regions outside China. Closer to home, the South East Asian region seems to benefit from this trend.

5. For 2019, what will be the emerging markets and focus areas that the metalworking industry in Asia will focus on?

At the mass market stage, enterprise digitisation will penetrate deeper into the manufacturing floor. Enterprise will look to get more data from as many machines and sensors as possible. This has been happening in the past years, and we are expecting this trend to continue.

The need for data collection will force some rethinking in what goes inside the control cabinet. While traditional controllers are well known and well loved, it needs some additional components to do data collection and data sending. Additional components means additional costs and more point of failures, and a potentially bigger control cabinet. Some PC based solutions out there will be more attractive moving forward.

As well as sending data over standardised communication protocol, companies will increasingly looking to get standardised information from each machine type. This so called “information modelling” will make sense when one look into a production line today, there is hardly a “homogenous” production line containing the same machine model from the same manufacturer. In this area, the VDW has announced umati, an open and common language specifically designed for machine tools. With umati, end users can utilise the same interface to get the same data from different model of machine tools from different manufacturers. The good news is, umati is based on OPC UA.

Another focus for metalworking and CNC world will be the use of AR technologies. While still a cutting edge technology today, this technology holds a lot of promise from speeding up operators training, to helping maintenance work.

At the bleeding edge, we increasingly see a trend where suppliers are looking to implement ML directly on premise / machine. While this is on early stages, we feel that this would be the internal focus of many bleeding edge supplier


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Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director Of Omron Electronics Singapore

Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore on his views on the future of robotics technologies in Asia and its impact on manufacturing processes and supply chains.

Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore

1. In your opinion, what are the top three megatrends that are shaping the robotics industry in Asia?

Firstly, robots are becoming increasingly proactive due to intelligent features being incorporated into them today. Robots are no longer limited to menial or laborious duties. Empowered by artificial intelligence, robots can take on higher level tasks due to their ability to ‘learn’ and ‘think’.

Secondly, the use of collaborative robots or “cobots” is set to increase. Robots have yet to really work collaboratively with humans due to safety concerns and inadequate sensory information. However, we are making substantial progress in improving safety and sensing technology, increasing the potential to revolutionise the way humans work with robots in the future.

Lastly, decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that their businesses can reap by incorporating robots. As a result, people with skills and expertise in robotics are becoming more highly sought-after.

2. What are the key challenges that prevent manufacturers in Asia from adopting robotics in their manufacturing processes and supply chains?

Manufacturers are still faced with resistance from employees who are not familiar with robotics. Unfortunately, many employees still fear that their jobs are threatened by robotics and automation.

Incorporating robotics into factories and production lines is also seen as a long-term project. Small and medium sized manufacturers, vigilant of their costs and cashflow, may not see investing in robotics as immediately beneficial or justifiable.

Successful implementation of robotics is also typically perceived as requiring major adjustments to work processes or even infrastructure. This can lead to resistance from employees who are unwilling to change or adapt.

3. How do you suggest that the above challenges be solved?

Manufacturers must understand that the implementation of robotics is not about replacing workers. When incorporated successfully in the production line, for example, robotics and automation can alleviate workers from routine and laborious tasks. These workers can move on to perform more value-added tasks in the factory, ultimately enhancing the quality and quantity of output.

The belief that robotics only provides a long-term return on investment may also be incorrect. For example, for some organisations, simple optimisations to existing manufacturing lines have resulted in significant cost savings at comparatively low costs. For instance, Omron has helped one packaging manufacturer increase output speed by 30 percent by using anti-vibration technology. The speed of the existing yoghurt packaging line was limited due to the need to stop the product from sloshing during movements. Anti-vibration technology removed this bottleneck and allowed them to perform at a much higher standard.

Training employees to pick up robotics skills and the ability to work with robots is also effective in driving adoption. Furthermore, robotics technology has evolved to the point where major infrastructure changes are no longer required in order to achieve the same goals. To explore what is possible, the industry has evolved to allow SMEs and businesses to experiment with these technologies rather than make an upfront commitment. The Omron Automation Centre, for example, provides solutions and training to companies who are looking to explore advanced technology solutions.

4. In 5 to 10 years’ time, how do you think the robotics industry and its relationship with manufacturing and supply chains will evolve in Asia?

In five to 10 years’ time, robotics and automation will be a sine qua non for the manufacturing industry. Robots are expected to take on more higher-level roles as technology continues to evolve, providing relief to manufacturers today who are typically under increasing pressure due to fast-evolving consumer trends, shorter product life cycles, increased competition and labour shortages.

On top of robotics, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to play key roles in production lines and instil a sense of human-free proactiveness that will continue to transform the way we work in factories.

Smart adaptive algorithms are equipping robots with the ability to analyse and process data with quick efficiency. Advanced analytics and AI software will also allow robots to arrive at programmed actions based on the intelligence they discover.

It will also no longer be a surprise that machines and robots can track a large amount of production variables through advanced analytics. This allows timely control of crucial production factors such as manufacturing accuracy and quality control that are not easily spotted by humans.

 5. What are your thoughts on the Singapore International Robo Expo? Do you think the industry is ready for an event like this?

As a country that is largely thriving on a knowledge-based economy and with a strong focus on building itself into a leading smart nation, Singapore is an ideal location for events like the Singapore International Robo Expo.

The Singapore government has been a keen advocate of industries adopting robotics and other advanced technologies to digitalise operations. For instance, the government recently launched the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, a whitepaper that illustrates the government’s efforts to capitalise on the Industry 4.0 trend and transform the manufacturing landscape in Singapore

This event also provides an opportunity for the different stakeholders in the robotics industry to gather and exchange ideas. For example, Omron’s booth featured its Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle that featured a mobile robot and a collaborative robot arm tightly integrated together as a “mobile robotic handler”. These demonstrations help mature Singapore’s conversations and approaches on how certain functions, such as transportation and the loading of work materials in this case, can be fully automated.


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