Manufacturing Technology Asia (MTA) 2017, held in Singapore from 4 -7 April, attracted over 12,500 professional attendees from high-value industries and sectors including aerospace, complex equipment, electronics, oil and gas, marine and offshore engineering, precision engineering, and medical technology. Advanced manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing, augmented and virtual reality and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) were the highlights of the tradeshow. The Smart Manufacturing Asia conference is also a regional gathering for the automation industry and a great place to collect insight on what to expect for the coming year.
Key suppliers of automation solutions like Honeywell, Emerson, Mitsubishi Electric, ABB, and Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) provided interesting views on IIoT in the region. Key takeaways from the event were:
- Singapore is positioning itself as the hub of the revolution in advanced manufacturing technologies
- Standardization in industrial settings of equipment and devices and corporate culture are the challenges for IIoT to penetrate industry
- Collaborations and partnerships to build an IIoT ecosystem are critical for success
While there has been a noticeable buzz of activity in IIoT solutions in Europe and North America, the Southeast Asian market is still in its infancy. In a recent IHS Markit survey, approximately 40% of end-user respondents from companies based in the Asia-Pacific region indicated they used an IIOT solution, or planned to use one in the next 12 months. Despite this, there had been very little engagement from companies based in Southeast Asia in the last two years, compared with ones in China or Japan. IHS Markit believes that this shows an on-going need to educate the market as to how solutions can benefit their business; government agencies should play an important role in encouraging the adoption of the technology.
Challenges in integrating IIoT into existing manufacturing
The journey of IIoT implementation is never easy. The lack of standardization, flexibility, and corporate department responsibility are amongst the factors that will hinder the adoption of IIoT.
Standardization in industrial settings of equipment and devices is the fundamental requirement for IIoT implementation. Mr. Chang Thai Nam, the vice president of discrete automation and motion in ABB Singapore emphasized the variation of processes and industrial settings are one of the challenges of IIoT adoption; suppliers to the market are addressing this challenge with various solutions for existing equipment. Jonas Berge, Director Applied Technology at Emerson said: “With the industrial IoT, we are creating a second layer of automation to improve the reliability, energy efficiency, safety, and productivity of the manufacturing plant”. Therefore, it is important for the end-users to align these values with corporate strategy in order to succeed.
Today, vendors of IIoT solutions often find it challenging to promote solutions to the correct department and contacts, as there are clear differences between end-users as to which department is leading IIoT initiatives. From the IHS Markit survey, only 10% of respondents expect these projects to be led from the corporate level. Instead, IT management and engineering each accounted for approximately a third of respondents. Masato Ushijima from Mitsubishi Electric highlighted the difficulties of integrating IT and OT systems and teams: “Therefore, top-down and bottoms-up strategies are important to drive the implementation of IIoT”. The most successful IIoT solutions will have corporate backing. For instance, a drive from the top, from the C-suite level, is often critical to handle difficult decisions, including ones on data sharing, changes in processes, and making the company retains the right talent.
Partnerships and collaborations
During an interview, Shane Booker, director Strategy and Innovation for Honeywell Connected Plant highlighted the importance of having a broad IIoT ecosystem in order to succeed. Increasingly partnerships among industry solution providers, process licensors, equipment experts and consultants will provide technology that will ease and speed adoption of IIoT to provide better solutions to industrial problems. What if you could collect, display, analyze and react to plant information in order to optimize production yields or avert unplanned downtime, by purchasing a solution virtually off the shelf? Or imagine benefitting from whatever data analytics expertise you need without having to hire a team of data scientists? Cloud-based forums of experts have the potential to deliver advice and assistance, whenever or wherever it is needed. Innovative and flexible offerings such as these are becoming available now through closer industry cooperation. The reality is no one technology provider can do everything, and therefore need one another to address remaining barriers and gaps, working together to make IIoT more accessible to the industry.
The outlook overall, for IIoT adoption in Southeast Asia in the coming years is encouraging, provided there is good collaboration and partnership from various stakeholders, and active support from Government authorities.