Digitalisation Is Inevitable, It’s Just A Matter Of Speed

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016 | 1021 Views

The countries of Southeast Asia might be only emerging markets at the moment, but the speed at which they are developing is unprecedented. Digitalisation of the food and beverage manufacturing industry will be inevitable, says Dieter Broeckl, senior vice president, country division lead DF/PD Thailand, Process Automation Lead ASEAN, Siemens.

Once slow and incomparable to the more sophisticated West, many markets in Southeast Asia are absorbing new technologies to quickly catch up. As such, spreading across the industry is the trend of Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution which includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing. Basically, this trend is revolutionising all machines and equipment so they become smarter, are able to handle and make sense of more and Big Data, and making the world a more digitalised place.

According to Mr Broeckl, the moving of the industry towards the direction of digitalisation is in line with the company’s vision 2020, which aligns all their businesses in the direction of electrification, automation and digitalisation.

Players in the upper tier of the market need to build their businesses on strong, innovatively driven products, Mr Broeckl said, and therefore require products and systems which either help them reach market leadership or improve their market position so as to stay ahead of competitors.

With Industry 4.0 and increased digitalisation, automation is being increasingly adopted in the region, especially with the rising labour costs in the markets here. “In order to balance between labour costs and profits, the answer is automation,” he said, which can bring more productivity and higher quality products, while using less energy.

Besides automation, another trend that is being seen in the region is digital prototyping. Listing Siemens’ software NX and Teamcenter as examples, “everything can be done on the computer,” he said. This includes designing the machine, simulating it, and actual prototyping of the machine.

“In this context, we’re talking about creating a digital twin in the computer, and if everything is up to your expectations even with the simulation, then you can start working on building the real machine. The software give you time to simulate everything in the proper environment, before you touch metal or waste time and effort,” he explained.

For companies that look beyond the local market, one needs to be competitive in order to be part of the export market in the international world, Mr Broeckl said. Competition would arise in terms of the way one manufactures, the processes used, and the products produced. “You need reliability, quality and you need to be flexible to react to the markets’ demands,” he informed. Automation and digitalisation can help one achieve these.

Asia is already gradually incorporating the two trends. The region holds about half of the world’s population—which explains the large demand for food and packaging—and it also holds all the appropriate resources to support the industry such as a strong agricultural culture in many countries such as Thailand. More and more consumers are also moving to the cities, and they are also demanding for convenience, which means more packaged food products, a positive sign for the industry and reinforcement for it to move towards digitalisation and automation.

There is still room for improvement though for the industry regarding the two aspects. He explained that a lot of products today, such as those by Siemens, are designed with the future in mind such that anyone who invests in these is automatically enabled for the digital world. How fast the industry gets digitalised therefore depends on the customer’s willingness of the industry to adopt it, rather than their capability to do so.