Industry 4.0 has transformed the way in which manufacturing is conducted and with buzzwords such as artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, cobots and cybersecurity dominating the industry. This has resulted in emerging markets such as Thailand developing innovative solutions in order to prosper. By Hazel Koh
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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