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Gripping And Clamping Solutions For Process Automation

Gripping and Clamping Solutions for Process Automation

In this interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Vincent Teo, general manager of Schunk, talks about the challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

Schunk is one of the leading providers of clamping technology and gripping systems worldwide. Founded in 1945 by Friedrich Schunk as a mechanical workshop, the company has grown to become what it is today under the leadership of his son, Heinz-Dieter Schunk. The company is now under the leadership of siblings Henrik A. Schunk and Kristina I. Schunk, the company founder’s grandchildren.

Schunk has more than 3,500 employees in nine production facilities and 34 subsidiaries as well as distribution partners in more than 50 countries. With more than 11,000 standard components, the company offers the world’s largest range of clamping technology and gripping systems from a single source. In particular, Schunk has 2,550 grippers—the broadest range of standard gripper components on the market—and its portfolio comprises more than 4,000 components.

Based in Singapore, Vincent Teo is the general manager of Schunk, where he is responsible for the Southeast Asia market, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Teo talks about the challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. He also talks about the trends shaping the clamping and gripping market, and his outlook for the industry.

APMEN: What is your company’s ‘sweet spot’?

Vincent Teo: Schunk understands the needs of manufacturing companies, which have assembly, handling and machining processes. Our products can apply in multiple manufacturing sectors.

APMEN: What sort of challenges are your customers facing?

Teo: Today, businesses face the challenge of getting skilled workers—and staff retention for many industries is becoming a struggle. This is even more severe for countries such as Singapore, which depends on foreign workers. If automation can help reduce these problems and improve work conditions, then more high-value jobs can be created.

APMEN: How is your company helping your customers address their problems?

Teo: We work together closely with our partners such as robot manufacturers and system integrators, and we aim to reach out to more customers to help them see the benefits of automation.

APMEN: What forces do you see driving the industry?

Teo: Collaborative robots, or cobots, have revolutionized many applications that were impossible to think of over a century ago. Less complicated programming equates to less man-hour training, making it cheaper for businesses to adopt robotics. This is game changer, and Schunk is working with the major players in this new era of robotics.

APMEN: What opportunities you are seeing in the Asia market for robotic clamping industry?

Teo: The trend towards automated loading on machining by robots is picking up in recent years. The company is well-positioned to support this growing demand with immediate solutions.

APMEN: What about the challenges in the region? How do you see the trade war between China and the US affecting the manufacturing industry?

Teo: There has been increased investments towards Asia. This is a good problem, where we see customers valuing more our solutions to help them to increase their productivity and capture more businesses.

APMEN: What are the latest developments in robotic clamping/gripping?

Teo: We constantly develop new products in anticipation of the needs of our customers. One example is our latest product, the VERO S NSE3 clamping module, which improves set-up time and has a repeatability accuracy of <0.005mm.

APMEN: How do you position yourself in this industry? What sets you and your solutions apart from the competition?

Teo: Schunk is a unique company, having clamping technology (CT) and gripping systems (GS) solutions. With more than 11,000 standard products, no other company has a comparable scale and size across the range of products. With integrated solutions for both, we provide our customers the best opportunity to automate their processes.

APMEN: What advice would you give your customers when it comes to choosing the correct robot clamping/gripping solution?

Teo: For the machining industry, some customers often invested in clamping solutions and realized later that they need to automate their processes. When they started to review, they will realize that their investments may not be future proof. This may further discourage them towards the automation idea. Our comprehensive CT products allow our customers to later upgrade with our GS products, as both offers seamless integration.

APMEN: The trend is toward smarter factories now, with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, etc. Where does Schunk come in in this environment?

Teo: Schunk sees the need to embrace new technologies. iTENDO, our intelligent hydraulic expansion toolholder for real-time process control, records the process directly on the tool, and transmits the data wirelessly to a receiving unit in the machine room for constant evaluation within the closed control loop. With iTENDO—the first intelligent toolholder on the market—Schunk is setting a milestone when it comes to digitalization in the metal cutting industry.

APMEN: What is your outlook for the robotic clamping/gripping industry in the next 12 to 18 months?

Teo: We understands our partners’ and customers’ needs. For gripping, we have come out recently with new products to address the growing demand for collaborative robot (cobots). For clamping, our latest NSE-A3 138 is specifically designed for automated machine loading. It has a pull down force up to 28kN with integrated bluff off function and media transfer units.

 

 

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Leveraging Human-Robot Collaboration

Leveraging Human-Robot Collaboration

The industrial automation industry is facing a fundamental change and, according to SCHUNK’s chief innovation officer Prof. Dr. med. Markus Glück, human-robot collaboration in manufacturing is certain to grow dramatically in the coming years. This importance of this trend was reflected in the large turnout for the 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue on ‘Using HRC Safely in Companies.’ The two-day event featured specialists in automotive, robotics, automation and engineering as well as medium-sized industrial companies from Germany and Europe discussing the applications and opportunities of human-robot collaboration (HRC) and experiencing them up close.

Glück is confident that co-acting, meaning unrestricted interaction with robots, is on the verge of a breakthrough. The main driving forces are ergonomic relief, greater flexibility of work processes, increased efficiency as well as the expansion of logistics, loading, handling and retrofitting.

“It’s all about bringing together the strengths of humans and robots,” said Glück. Combining the speed, power, repeat accuracy and high quality of robotics with the human strengths of perception, improvisation, reaction and adaptation, will create synergy toward maximising automation.

Meanwhile, first-time projects require a substantial amount of work that should not be underestimated, according to Glück. “The usual amortisation periods of less than two years will be difficult to achieve at the beginning,” he said. He recommended a systematic approach in which the suitability of the HRC application is first assessed based on specific eligibility criteria, such as the programming cost or the ability to implement operator guidance, the cost of integrating the application into the process chain, options for intuitive training, handling and acknowledgment, moderate cycle requirements as well the employees’ relationship with technology.

He also recommended conducting a business assessment that takes into account the costs of robot procurement, commissioning and integration as well as costs for safety precautions and certification. Conversely, however, the assessment must also consider the savings achieved by lowering personnel costs and increasing productivity. Above all, first-time projects should be thoughtfully approached, carefully planned and implemented with less complexity.

The 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue featured presentations from SCHUNK product manager Benedikt Janssen, who discussed SCHUNK’s options for cobot peripherals; Jochen Vetter, team leader for robot safety at PILZ, who gave an overview of standards-compliant use of HRC as well as reliable measurement of applied forces; Dr. Alfred Hypki, senior engineer at the Department of Production Systems of the Ruhr University Bochum, who presented a standardised questionnaire, which enables fast, objective and reliable assessment of HRC potential in companies; Sebastian Keller, production specialist for the BMW Group at the Leipzig plant, who explained how HRC is successfully employed in day-to-day production; Jens Kotlarski, managing director of Yuanda Robotics in Hanover, Germany, who gave an impressive presentation on the creative potential and dynamism of start-ups in the field of HRC; and Uwe Schmidt, head of the COBOT World division of HLS Ingenieurbüro GmbH in Augsburg, who demonstrated how HRC scenarios can be implemented in the real world.

 

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Outlook For Global Robot End-Effector Market

Outlook for Global Robot End-Effector Market

The robot end-effector market is expected to grow from US$2.6 billion in 2019 to US$45.7 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 16.9 percent during the forecast period, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets, mainly due to the fast-changing nature of industries today.

For example, in the packaging segment, the shape, size, surface, or weight of the packaging is constantly changing, thereby shortening the lifecycle of an end-effector to one to two years, and thus increasing the cost of replacement for a company. Modular end-effectors have the capability to accommodate and handle a large variety of objects as required. Hence, the growing demand for modular end-effectors is one of the key factors driving market growth.

Until 2017, welding guns dominated the robot-effector market. However, from 2018 onward, grippers have the largest share owing to the growing popularity of electric grippers, collaborative grippers, soft grippers, and customised grippers. The report expects this trend to continue moving forward, mainly because of the fully programmable feature of the electric gripper. When programmed intelligently around the states of operation, they can reduce cycle time by a considerable amount. Because of their programmable nature, they can also be calibrated for the use of three fingers or more, and can be fitted with different fingertips.

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is expected to dominate the robot end-effector market during the forecast period, mainly driven by increasing investment in automation by the automotive, and electrical and electronics players, especially in countries such as China, South Korea, and India. The increasing adoption of collaborative modular robots by manufacturers has also elevated the demand for modular robotics in APAC.

 

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Schunk’s Universal Compensating Unit Enables Intuitive Bin-Picking

Schunk’s Universal Compensating Unit Enables Intuitive Bin-Picking

Schunk’s AGE-U universal compensating unit enables reliable gripping without having to first detect the exact position and location of the gripping object. Its complex design combines angled, lateral and rotary compensation and applies sensor detection once deflection takes place.

When bin picking, ferromagnetic blanks can be picked up by a magnetic gripper without having to detect their exact position or orientation. All that is needed is an approximate localisation, using equipment such as a simple 2D scanner. In addition, the module can compensate for tolerances and position deviations in six axes during automated assembly.

The AGE-U has combined rotation and angular compensation, allowing the end effector to fully adapt to the undefined component position or to feed through insertion operations with gripped components. In the X and Y directions, the maximum possible compensation is ±2.7mm. In the Z direction, it is ±6.1mm. Laterally, the compensation around the X axis and Y axis is at up to ±3 deg, rotationally, it is at up to ±8 deg around the Z axis. While the return to the basic position is achieved both via springs and actively via compressed air, the flexibility of the unit can be adjusted individually by regulating the air pressure. At a pressure of 6bar, the unit is switched to a completely rigid mode, eliminating uncontrolled movements during the handling system process. Both the locked status as well as the deflection of the unit from the basic position can be monitored via inductive monitoring of the locking piston.

The compensation module is recommended for handling weights up to 5kg and can be connected to a wide range of industrial and lightweight robots quickly and easily using the standardised ISO-50 flange without adapter plate. The housing made of anodised aluminium and the functional components made of hardened steel ensure a long service life and reliable operation with minimal maintenance costs. The Schunk AGE-U is designed for one million compensation cycles.

 

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Quick-Change System From Schunk Handles Weights Up To 50kg

Quick-Change System from Schunk Handles Weights Up To 50kg

Schunk GmbH & Co. KG has released a pneumatically actuated robot quick-change system that allows fast and process-reliable changing of different gripping systems and tools at the front end. With its four optional module attachment surfaces, the SCHUNK SWS-046 offers a wealth of options for supplying the connected pneumatic, hydraulic or electric effector. High-power modules, self-sealing fluid modules and servo modules are also available.

The SCHUNK SWS-046 features a large number of modules for connecting actuators and sensors electrically, such as for PROFIBUS, PROFINET, CAN, RS232 and EtherNet TCP/IP. These modules can be supplied with signals via examples such as mechatronic grippers or force/torque sensors.

The SWS-046 screw connection diagram corresponds to robot side ISO 9409-1-100-6-M8. Schunk also offers an optional centring collar plate with ISO flange pattern, so that the module can usually be used on most robots without the need for an additional adapter plate. The patented ‘no-touch locking-system’ facilitates a reliable tool change even if the head and the adapter are up to 2.5mm apart from one another.

In the event of an emergency stop or a sudden power failure, the patented self-retaining feature of the locking system ensures a process-reliable connection between the quick-change master and adapter. A piston stroke monitoring system that is also integrated can be used to monitor the locking state of the module at any time. The maximum permissible moment load is 678Nm (Mx, My) or 882Nm (Mz).

 

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New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

Safety plays a key role when humans and robots work hand in hand in the industry. That is why users of cobots and industrial robots are already using igus’ multi-axis round triflex R e-chains for energy and data supply. To easily attach these energy chains and increase work safety in industry, igus has now developed new plastic mounting clamps. With quick installation, these minimise the risk of injury with their rounded edge design. By igus

In the course of Industry 4.0, the interaction between humans and machines is increasingly becoming the focus of automation. Therefore, collaborative robots will play an increasingly role in the future. Currently, cobots are mainly used as assistants in simple or interacting activities and – in contrast to large and fast industrial robots – work hand in hand with humans. For reliable energy supply to cobots and industrial robots, igus offers the optimal energy chain solution with its triflex R range. In addition to metal clamps, customers can now use new cobot designed clamps to attach the energy chain to the robot arm. The design with rounded edges increases workplace safety by reducing the risk of injury when in contact with the robot. The plastic clamps can be quickly attached to the arm of the robot by a screw connection. The triflex R is simply attached to the clamp by a clip and fixed. The new clamps are suitable for cobots from Universal Robots, TMS and Kuka LBR iiwa robot arms.

Triflex Energy Chains For A Safe Energy Supply On The Robot

The triflex R range has been specifically developed for sophisticated 6-axis robots in industrial environments. By combining the flexibility of a hose with the stability of an energy chain, the round triflex R ensures reliable cable guidance in multi-axis movements. A ball/socket principle ensures high tensile strength and easy installation of the e-chain. The interior separation is freely selectable. The circular bend radius stop and the high twistability of the e-chain prevent the over-stressing of cables – this system increases the service life and operational reliability of the application. The triflex e-chains are available as a complete package with cobot designed clamps, cables and connectors immediately ready for connection.

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Four Providers Of Cobots Named IDC Innovators

Four Providers Of Cobots Named IDC Innovators

International Data Corporation (IDC) has published an IDC Innovators report profiling four companies developing collaborative robots to help drive the adoption of collaborative robotic automation and elevate the overall competitiveness of the end-user organisations. The four companies named IDC Innovators are AUBO Robotics, Franka Emika, JK-Tech Robotics, and Techman Robotics.

Intelligent collaborative robots (cobots) equipped with sensors, visions, mobility, and data analytics are finding their sweet spot applications in manufacturing, logistics, and other industries. The deployment of cobots have experienced significant growth in recent years. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years, fueled by the maturity of technology, availability of a broader range of solutions, and the accumulation of application experiences by the user community and ecosystem players.

“Cobots are being increasingly deployed by many manufacturing and logistics organizations to increase operations efficiency, agility, and product quality,” said Jing Bing Zhang, Research Director, IDC Worldwide Robotics. “With more and more vendors entering the market, it becomes imperative for vendors to focus on delivering highly differentiable and value-added solutions to address the pain points of the target customers.”

AUBO Robotics has developed several cobot models featuring high positional repeatability, open architecture and modular joint design. Users can customise the number of joints and the length between the joints to meet specific application requirements.

Franka Emika offers a seven-axis, modular, and ultra-lightweight cobots designed to interact with and assist humans safely. The company also provides Conformité Européenne (CE)-certified out of the box solution app packages for pre-defined applications.

JK-Tech Robotics has developed highly sensitive seven-axis robots with integrated torque sensors for all seven joints. This ensures that the cobots are highly sensitive, flexible, and responsive to external contact and resistance.

Techman Robotics offers several models of cobots and mobile cobots with integrated visions systems, which increases the versatility and flexibility of its robots in carrying out industrial tasks and eliminates the need for precise presentation of materials to be handled.

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3D Scanner Market To Experience Double Digit Growth Till 2022

3D Scanner Market To Experience Double Digit Growth Till 2022

In its first forecast of the 3D scanner market, International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that worldwide 3D scanner shipments will grow to more than 273 million units in 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.0 percent over the 2018-2022 forecast period. Total market value is expected to reach USD 1.74 billion in 2022 with a five-year CAGR of 11.5 percent.

Since the development of 3D scanners, the market has been largely focused on a few industries and use cases. Oil refineries and related plants are one of the largest clients for these products on an industrial level and manufacturing, particularly the auto industry, has used 3D scanning as a means of determining quality control and inventory management. Als0 as prices have come down over the past ten years, the market for 3D scanners has begun to expand and starting with ocular and dental use cases, the medical field has been exploring the use of 3D scanners for a variety of applications.

“The fragmented and concentrated nature of the 3D scanning market kept the market from expanding in the past. Within the past decade, continued interest in various vertical industries and similar factors leading to the growth of the 3D printer market are starting to push the market toward more mainstream applications. Our forecast looks at the main influences that push this market forward, and what we expect will lead to future developments,” said Max Pepper, Research Analyst, Imaging, Printing, Document Solutions at IDC.

For the purposes of this forecast, a 3D scanner is a metrological device that can optically identify, analyse, collect, and display geometric shapes or three-dimensional environments within a digital environment using computer-aided modeling. Optical 3D scanners use a variety of technologies, including structured light (both “blue light” and “white light”), laser triangulation, time of flight, phase shift, stereoscopic, infrared laser, and photogrammetry. IDC’s definition does not include contact scanners.

The 3D scanner market can be segmented into two sub-markets for handheld and stationary configurations. Handheld 3D scanning devices have a handle and are meant to be physically moved around an object to scan while being held. Stationary 3D scanners are those devices that do not fit the definition of a “handheld” device and includes shoulder- and cart-mounted devices as well as scanners attached to robotic arms.

In 2017, stationary scanners represented 57 percent of worldwide 3D scanner shipments with the remaining 43 percent belonging to handheld scanners. By 2022, IDC expects shipments of handheld scanners will grow to 45 percent of the overall market. This is largely due to the growth in the <USD 5,000 price band where handheld units are more popular and improvements in handheld technology among professional and industrial-focused products. In terms of market value, higher-priced stationary 3D scanners are expected to maintain their 89 percent share of overall market value throughout the forecast.

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Universal Robots Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary Of Selling The World’s First Commercially Viable Cobot

Universal Robots Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary Of Selling The World’s First Commercially Viable Cobot

10 years ago, Universal Robots’ (UR) Co-Founder and CTO, Esben Østergaard, delivered the company’s first cobot to Linatex after leading a small team through three years of development in a basement at the University of Southern Denmark.

10 years later, he was awarded the Engelberger Award, the “Nobel Prize” of robotics, for his pioneering role in developing cobots. Regarding this, Østergaard has said, “10 years might seem like a long time, and it’s definitely been quite a journey; but we’ve only just started to scratch the surface,” he added that, “I continue to see our cobots power new applications that we never imagined when we first launched.”

Lowering The Automation Barrier

In 2016 UR launched Universal Robots+, a new platform that leverages the company’s innovative global ecosystem by enabling 3rd party developers to create products – such as grippers, vision systems, software, and other accessories – that are certified to work seamlessly with UR cobots. The UR+ showroom now includes around 130 certified UR+ products and 390+ approved commercial developer companies in the UR+ developer program.

A year later, in 2017, Universal Robots Academy was launched to raise robot literacy. It consists of nine free-of-charge interactive modules of online training in mastering programming, set-up and operation of UR cobots. The program has been widely adopted worldwide, with more than 45,000 users from over 130 countries signed up as modules have become available in eight languages including English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai. To date, UR is the only cobot vendor offering robotics training of this caliber for free.

“We are facing a looming skills gap in the manufacturing industry that we need to bridge by all means possible. Facilitating knowledge creation and access to our robots is an important step in that direction,” said Esben Østergaard, UR’s co-founder and CTO.

Innovation Is Imperative

Cobots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation and growth is expected to jump ten-fold to reach 34 percent of all industrial robot sales by 2025, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). As a first mover Universal Robots (UR) has kept its market leader position with a 60 percent global share of the cobot market according to BIS Research, selling more cobots than all competitors combined.

However, as the cobot market is experiencing an increasing number of competitors – both from the established industrial players and start-ups – it is vital, to keep ahead of the curve and in June, UR launched a brand-new generation of its cobots, the e-Series, which is a platform that raises the standard for collaborative robots, and enables even faster solution development and deployment of a wider variety of applications.

Last year the company grew 72 percent and earlier in 2018, the company marked its 25,000th cobot sale by delivering a limited edition in gold. To date, the company has sold more than 27,000 cobots around the world.

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Industry 4.0: Are Businesses Stepping Up To Be Future Ready?

Industry 4.0: Are Businesses Stepping Up To Be Future Ready?

Vincent Chong, President and Chief Executive Officer of ST Engineering shares his views on the adoption of Industry 4.0 in Asia.

The inaugural Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP), a Hannover Messe event, concluded in Singapore recently. As business leaders, experts, government representatives and other stakeholders gathered to discuss Industry 4.0, what emerged clear to all was that technology adoption across Asia remained uneven.

Is this a case of change not happening? Far from so. Industry 4.0 is very much an evolution rather than a revolution. Even as we speak, industries are transforming. Today, it is not a question of whether businesses are future-ready; it is whether businesses realise the implications of not participating in the fourth industrial revolution when it will move on regardless of their actions.

Industry Evolution

Driven by the rising operational costs and a human resources crunch, the local industry in Singapore understands that it is imperative to adopt Industry 4.0.

Even for ST Engineering as a technology and engineering group, digitalisation of the workflow at the Aerospace business or the “Aerobook” occurred more than 10 years ago.

This began with the adoption of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and robotics, with other advanced technologies progressing only when the business case became clearer. Other possibilities were also adopted to redefine the company’s value proposition such as customer participation and mobile interfaces in the digitised process, improved interaction via AR between engineers and mechanics to reduce the time taken for repairs; reducing turnaround time and minimising inventory stock-keeping of aircraft parts through additive manufacturing. These have all led to productivity improvements of up to 15 percent to date. Looking forward, ST Engineering will also be certifying the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for aircraft inspection, which, when implemented will help to improve efficiency and minimise workplace accidents.

Furthermore, with technological advances in the company’s aerospace business, the company is able to drive goals to improve productivity and capture efficiencies which are essential in order to operate in higher-cost locations like Singapore, Germany and the US. This augments the company’s competitive differentiators in quality and value.

Challenges Of Transformation

Government support is not lacking for Industry 4.0. In March this year, the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced that it would be funding 300 companies to undergo assessments using the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, so as to accelerate the industry transformation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large local enterprises (LLEs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) across various industries. This follows the launch of as many as 23 industry transformation maps, public-private partnerships like Tech Labs (ARTC and SimTech), Tech Access and Tech Depot to help SMEs test and experiment with advanced manufacturing technologies, translate research to applications and access technologies easily. There have also been numerous workforce transition programmes.

Even as the government invests time and resources to move the industry, business leaders remain pragmatic. The push to transform will happen only where there are strong drivers. Many will start on the digitalisation journey, but will invest only when they can see immediate value in doing so.

Indonesia’s Minister for Industry Airlangga Hartarto, has observed that millions of Indonesians in the workforce will require training to be digitally literate under the country’s Industry 4.0 rollout plans. Additionally, Dr. Gunther Kegel, CEO of Pepperl+Fuchs, Germany, has said that his company had spent hundreds of training hours to ready the workforce. He also added that even with buy-ins for change, it requires transforming processes from computer-assisted ones to computer-dominated ones, and changing the way people have been working for the past 20 years.

What tends to happen however, as Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing pointed out at the panel discussion, is that many companies “often get stuck” at the application stage of technologies, and “they never really go to Stage 3, which is the re-engineering part”. He was referring to the four stages of the technology industry known as DART: Diffusion, Application, Re-engineering and real Transformation. His view is that the mere application of technologies will not lead to real transformation, as it was only “mechanising, robotising and digitising current processes”.

Transforming the organisation thus requires a mindset shift from leaders and staff alike. It is Worker 4.0 who would be critical in the success of Industry 4.0, as Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, said at ITAP.

Firstly, from constantly thinking pragmatically on just which technologies are needed on hand, managers and employees need to think more strategically and with a future-oriented view to consider the opportunities that Industry 4.0 can bring, and how best the business can harness these. They need to build the business and economic case, and not pursue technology for technology’s sake.

With the production of more proven use cases, the adoption rate of technologies will grow. It will grow even more quickly if business cases are clearly in sight and it will require senior leaders to take a top-down approach to drive implementation and overcome barriers and resistance for transformation.

Readying The Workforce

Minister Chan additionally observed that Singapore will need to compress the learning cycle; the conventional model of using the school system to churn out workers is a bit too slow for tomorrow’s needs. He added that the frontiers of learning will need to be in companies where there is constant experimentation, even as we rely on conventional learning for building fundamentals.

Similarly, organisations will welcome the development of more industry 4.0-related talents through the institutes of higher learning (IHLs) in the future. In addition to degree courses, on-demand micro-learning modules in areas such as autonomous systems, robotics, data analytics and cyber security should also be offered. This is also an area where corporates, government agencies and IHLs can work together to co-develop.

ST Engineering’s approach to training and retraining of the workforce for Industry 4.0 is multi-pronged, with the company’s top 100 managers attending data analytics and cyber security executive workshops in order to ensure that a mindset shift occurs from the top. Additionally, engineers are also put through courses that are targeted at further enhancing domain expertise.

For instance, 70 of the company’s engineers have already been trained at ST Engineering’s Cybersecurity Academy, which is a professional cyber security training school. And 350 of the company’s engineers attended a technical course in robotics and digitalisation, made possible by ST Engineering’s strategic partnership with Singapore Polytechnic, to create a bespoke Digital Transformation & Robotic course. Moving forward, the another 1,000 employees will be trained in a customised data analytics programme over the next one and a half years at the National University of Singapore.

Strategic Technology Centres have also be established to develop deep capabilities in areas such as data analytics and cyber security, to provide group-wide support in further differentiating products and solutions. Lastly, extensive collaborations with external technology partners and IHLs through Corporate Labs, Corporate Venture and Open Innovation Labs have also been carried out.

Are Businesses Ready?

Industry 4.0 is a major shift for many organisations. Are business leaders prepared to redefine and re-engineer their business models and processes by drawing from technological advances for real transformation?

If having platforms and infrastructure in place at both the country and organisation levels are not good enough an impetus for change, perhaps the reality of being left behind by competitors is.

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