“If you’re not using smart technology, you’re not smart,” says Jonathan Hung of Flex.
This was the key takeaway at the SMART Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Industry 4.0 Forum. Despite the laughter from the forum attendees, there is a ring of truth to his words.
There is a strong emphasis on smart factories, innovation and disruptive technologies being the key drivers of Singapore’s economic growth in the era of Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. As pointed out in an earlier manufacturing convention, businesses who fail to embrace this transformation may risk being disrupted or made redundant.
Strategies for Smart Manufacturing
It is imperative to adapt to the changing manufacturing landscape in order to stay relevant.
“Mass customisation and mass production will soon be the norm,” says Brandon Lee of Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF). “To transform the industry, you need to think new, think big and think agile.”
He cites using 3D printing to combine and simplify processes and provide options on products. This includes producing components as a service, rapid process adaptation based on changed requirements and supply chain consolidation and co-location.
Christopher Warren of Accenture discusses strategic imperatives for smart manufacturing.
- Rearchitect the new ecosystem. Focus on experience and the outcome.
- Transform the core. Innovate new business models.
- Manage the wise pivot. Build the workforce.
To optimise factory operations, companies need to set up preventive maintenance, real-time monitoring, connected factories using cloud systems and have quality visualisations. What is your objective? What is the end in mind? How can I use this to grow my business and stay competitive?
Transforming into smart factories cannot done in a day. Companies must address these challenges before they jump on the bandwagon.
- Is your process stable?
- Is your data secure?
- How to handle change management?
- What are your implementation costs?
- Is your organisation ready?
- What are the skills required?
It seems daunting, but Jayachandiran of Infineon Technologies suggests, “Instead of doing everything one-shot, take incremental steps from manual to semi-automation first to prove that the solution works, then you implement full automation.” The degree of complexity increases over time, hence it is important to start somewhere and build on it.
Dr Andreas Hauser of TUV SUD shares, “You need quality, productivity, speed and flexibility, but first, you must have a good understanding of your business needs before you employ the necessary technologies into your current processes.
“Singapore needs the world, the world doesn’t need Singapore.”
Digitising the process is only part of the plan. More importantly, companies would need to understand the journey of how technology can solve their existing business problems before they can think of implementing solutions. There is no panacea for all problems.
At the end of the day, technology is merely an enabling tool. Instead of “Tell me what I can do”, it is more beneficial to assess the current situation and approach from the point of “I know what I need to do”.