By now, most Malaysians should surely already be familiar with the term Internet of Things, where every day devices, and products, even if they traditionally did not have any internet connectivity, will be connected online, and can be controlled anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection.
The concept of Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution is to utilise information to improve competitiveness, capacity and capabilities of industrial players in Malaysia. With IoT technology now being more commonplace, businesses can all have their processes automated, and improve on budget and efficiency.
This is in line with the Taiwan government’s Go South policy, to introduce Taiwanese technology to various countries within the Asia Pacific region to help them grow their industrial economy by several folds, and improving their efficiency.
With currently implemented technology, most factories won’t be able to tell the upper management quickly about current production numbers and stock that is currently on hold. These kinds of information would have to be updated, and presented in a report before it’s handed over to the executives that need it.
With the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies, such information can be expedited almost immediately, so that management can make decisions far more quickly. This is in-line with improving Malaysia’s current industry contribution of 23 percent of GDP to 30 percent in the years to come.
Industry 4.0 is a concept of Internet of Things that is tailored towards the industrial sector rather than the consumer industry. Advantech, a Taiwanese company that specialises in industrial IoT services, systems and devices is looking to make Malaysia the preferred investment destination amongst the most competitive trading nations by 2020.
Advantech is a company that specialises in industrial automation as well as intelligent systems and services. With Industry 4.0 standards starting to be implemented worldwide, the Taiwanese industrial technology company has decided to make Malaysia its main base of operations in the region as it is the most strategic location in the South East Asia region.
The company is currently pushing out Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) and Wireless IoT Sensor Modules (WISE-IA) to be implemented in factories and manufacturing plants that can help automate various processes, while allowing people to control these automations from anywhere, via the internet.
The LPWA and WISE-IA market share in the industrial market currently has 3.4 percent market share globally at 3.0 billion USD, with the number expected to reach somewhere in the region of 10.0 billion USD in the years to come.
On top of this, Advantech is also creating a Process Visualisation system with its own components, allowing companies to control various processes in their factories in one central location. These include Situation Rooms where any problem can be detected and dealt with, a Dashboard where all of the system’s controls and details can be monitored, and even a mobile app, which makes quick checks in and around the plant a fuss-free affair.
An example of this is shown by Advantech via a predictive maintenance of a screw model production. Typically, screws are made using the cold stamping method, using a mold. Typically, these molds would need to be checked every so often manually, which is not very efficient, as production would either have to be stopped often, or the screws would have defective heads.
With the implementation of Industry 4.0 technology, this can be expediated even further thanks to the use of piezoelectric sensors that are installed in the machine. The sensor will emit punching waveforms that can be monitored to determine the deterioration status of the mold to predict when it is appropriate to replace it.
There are of course some challenges that need to be addressed before Industry 4.0 standards can be implemented in industrial plants here in Malaysia. For starters, employees need to be upskilled and reskilled, because a lot of the jobs that would otherwise be done by factory workers will be automated by machines instead.
Focus also needs to be shifted to research and development as these businesses will need to figure out which sort of automation system works for them, and implement them quickly. Being able to adapt to an ever-changing environment is also important as competitors will always to seek to do one better than you.
As systems change, businesses also need to ensure that customer expectations are still met, as at the end of the day, you’re running a business, and customers are, and should always be at the top of your priority list.
Advantech’s aim of introducing Industry 4.0 solutions comes in stages. Currently, the company is looking to implement embedded systems in industrial plants, and getting businesses used to using IoT services in their day-to-day management of factories.
Phase two is where Solutions Ready Platforms (SRP) and cloud-based analytics software are expected to be implemented, allowing businesses to fully utilise cloud-based technology to optimise their operations.
In the future, other system integrators will be able to come in and be able to use their systems with Advantech’s own solutions, which means companies will not have to worry about changing their industrial management solutions even if they decide to change up the equipment used for their day-to-day industrial needs.