Gearing ASEAN Towards Industry 4.0

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

ASEAN still faces some manufacturing challenges compared to the developed West, but automation and service providers can help these countries progress at a faster rate. Raimund Klein, executive vice president, Digital Factory (DF) and Process Industries and Drives (PD) Division, Siemens Private Limited, discusses more with APFI. By Michelle Cheong

What are some trends that are being seen here in Asia?

If you look at the OEM of ASEAN countries, there’s only one OEM market that is really developed at the moment, and that is Thailand. The others are not very well developed in this area, although we are seeing an increasing investment in the food and beverage markets.

In many of the “second wave” of emerging markets—Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam or even the Philippines, most are still focusing on infrastructure projects primarily. This is a pattern that we always see; countries focus on developing infrastructure first, then move onto food processing when the local markets are not enough anymore to feed the local population.

Due to rapid urbanisation, increasing population and changing demographics such as a rising middle-class in the region, the food and beverage industry has seen significant growth in food consumption over the last few years.

The region, being a melting pot of diverse cultures, has to cater to a multitude of changing consumer tastes and preferences. Businesses therefore need to adopt innovative strategies to meet increasing demands from consumers to stay competitive.

What are some challenges faced by manufacturers in Asia?

1. Ensuring continuous operations 24/7, 365 days a year, or with multiple changes to batch processes.

Solution: A solid and reliable process control system can assure businesses that production processes can be operated continuously with efficiency and less room for error. Flexible automation systems can also be used to increase productivity for the company as processes can be customised according to a business’ specific needs.

2. Costly production processes, in terms of time, resources and energy.

Solution: Efficient energy management with energy optimising automation solutions can be implemented, so as to provide visibility and manage costs.

3. Integrated plant equipment and control systems with seamless communication for operators to monitor at remote sites.

Solution: Utilising solutions with a remote operation centre that come with virtualisation technology and remote desktop features.

With reference to the last point, the problems for manufacturers in Asia extends beyond just having integrated plant equipment at the moment. The West like America and Europe may be very advanced at the moment and most manufacturers would be well on their way to upgrading to Industry 4.0 solutions, while majority of manufacturers here in ASEAN are still only at 2.0.

Industry 2.0 simply means that machines are automated; Industry 4.0 is the present technological revolution where manufacturers are making use of a digital twin of their systems. This makes it possible for manufacturers to view the entire production process digitally, adjust input and output, as well as simulate production so as to see how conventional productions can be upgraded to new technology to increase productivity. The advantage of this is that it enables production rates to be predicted when you change each element of the production; it is possible that the full scale of the production line need not be upgraded, just one element.

This would save manufacturers’ time, money and other investments spent on new technology that they may not need. However, then comes in the first and foremost problem for ASEAN manufacturers: many still do not understand what exactly Industry 4.0 is and what it could mean for their production processes and businesses. Capabilities of people in the region who know what MAS is and how to work the digital twin are also limited at the moment.

In your opinion, what is it that these manufacturers need most?

1. Time: They would need time to understand and adjust to any possible changes made to their production. They cannot be expected to jump; this is an incremental development process. How fast they adjust would also be dependent on how much they are willing to invest.

2. Flexibility: Manufacturers would need to meet with changing consumer demands, and therefore require systems with flexible processes to meet the expansion of production lines—i.e. producing more varieties in smaller batches.

3. Reliability: A stable process control system will allow businesses to ensure transparent monitoring of production processes.

4. Profitability: To optimise costs, manufacturers have to improve their production processes through digitalisation.

How can companies such as Siemens help the F&B industry move forward?

ASEAN countries commonly face problems with speed, efficiency and flexibility as highlighted earlier. Having providers for integrated engineering and operations in the processes industry would therefore be of great help for food and beverage companies in this area.

Innovative solutions and the potential of digitalisation would also be of significant help, such as through improving the whole plant lifecycle with the use of the digital twin, which can provide a virtual simulation and optimisation of different parts of a plant and process.