Smarter manufacturing in full swing

August 28, 2019 | 10:26
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is giving rise to smart factories where robotics, Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, and data analytics are used to link production and logistics processes and make manufacturing more efficient and sustainable. Their increasing numbers are also offering chances for international tech giants and increasing competition. Nguyen Thu reports.
smarter manufacturing in full swing
Industry 4.0 can net trillions of dollars across all sectors over the next decade alone, if utilised correctly

Returning to Vietnam for the opening of the country’s first ­Robotics Technical and Service Centre, Arno Strotgen, vice president of engineering giant ABB’s customer service for the Robotics Division, shared his views on Vietnam’s growth and the country’s possibly bright future as it moves towards becoming an important regional, and maybe even global, manufacturing hub. “Contrary to all predictions, Vietnamese enterprises are willing to spend big money to use robots and advanced technologies in their production lines,” he said.

Similarly, Shermine Gotfredsen, general manager for Southeast Asia and Oceania at Universal Robots, a Danish manufacturer of industrial collaborative robot arms, told VIR that the demand for Cobot, a robot designed to collaborate with human workers, is rising in Vietnam as businesses are recognising the importance of employing advanced technology and robotics to maintain a competitive advantage. Furthermore, the Vietnamese government has made Industry 4.0 a top priority, developing action plans to accelerate the adoption of new automated technology and attract more foreign investors.

According to industrial experts, digital manufacturing can reduce the environmental impacts of production, by shortening and simplifying traditional supply chains, thereby unlocking new sustainable industries and accelerating a more circular and low-carbon economy. It has the potential to offer cleaner and safer jobs for workers, enabling greater wellbeing and opportunities for people everywhere. Digital manufacturing can also be a powerful force for social and economic goods in global communities by enabling new business models, the creation of new local jobs, and innovative new solutions to address most challenging issues.

According to the World Economic Forum, the value of digital transformations in Industry 4.0 is estimated at $100 trillion in the next 10 years alone, across all sectors, industries, and geographies. The manufacturing sector, which has long been a driver of global prosperity and economic growth, is a key to this transformation.

Pursuing innovation

Smart manufacturing is changing the way we manufacture, utilise, operate, and maintain our products globally. This change is reducing the competitive advantage of places that have been based on cheap labour and natural resources. In Vietnam, the development of the digital economy and smart manufacturing is considered by the government as a key task to restructure the economy and transform the growth model towards productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.

Every business needs to realise the risk of fogginess and, at the same time, identify the need for change. Smart manufacturing is a long process, but it should start now.

According to industrial experts, electronics, foodstuff, consumer goods, as well as taxtile and garments are areas with diversified products and favourable conditions for smart factories to apply and promote their superior properties.

Ronaldo Villanueva, IT head of food and beverage producer URC Vietnam, said that his company is benefiting from Industry 4.0 solutions applied at its factories.

“We believe that the automation of factories using new technologies enhances and streamlines our operations, and enables real-time performance monitoring and analysis, as well as improves the quality and availability of raw materials,” Villanueva said. “Our company will definitely benefit by reducing production costs and making our products available to consumers at a faster speed.”

Vo Quang Hue, Vingroup’s deputy CEO for the automotive sector, meanwhile, recently told local media about the group’s automobile making arm VinFast on the sidelines of the Industry 4.0 Summit in Hanoi that “We have selected leading companies from Europe, mainly Germany, as the main partners in designing and manufacturing production lines for our two Sedan and SUV models. They will provide us with data collection and management systems, business planning systems, product lifecycle management systems, and production management systems, as well as with designing and installing five factories, including stamping, welding, painting, engine production, and final assembly.”

Keeping up with the trend of smart factory development, Vietnam’s leading dairy producer Vinamilk also built a dairy factory in the southern province of Binh Duong, the largest and most modern one in Southeast Asia. Here, the production lines are fully automated, including a warehouse where all processes are robotised. The robots will look for fully charged batteries to replace them by themselves when they run low on energy.

Tech giants step up

In response to the concrete strategies and related updated legislation, tech giants are accelerating plans to capture opportunities.

Ericsson, ABB, Volvo Buses, Electrolux, and IKEA – all famous Swedish brands with years of success in Vietnam – have shown their ambitions with new plans to support smart manufacturing and solutions.

Brian Hull, ABB’s country managing director in Vietnam, said, “We have opened Vietnam’s first robotics technical and service centre in the north to support businesses to deploy advanced manufacturing technologies. Vietnam is at an exciting phase of its development.”

ABB has seen large local companies such as VinFast using latest technologies in their manufacturing base, or state groups such as Electricity of Vietnam starting to look for digital management solutions.

“Whether it is about developing smart cities, smart factories, smart grids, or renewable energy and electric vehicles, we look forward to continuing to bring ABB’s innovative technologies to Vietnam,” Hull said.

Other companies from Japan, South Korea, the United States, and European countries are also joining the race. According to Germany’s Siemens, under Industry 4.0, billions of machines, systems, and sensors worldwide will communicate directly with one another. Companies, ­especially those in the manufacturing and processing industries, will benefit from increased productivity, flexibility, and shorter times to market, thereby increasing their competitiveness. Their customers will also benefit from more personalised, high-quality products. End-users will be able to order their very own merchandise, tailored to their needs.

Pham Thai Lai, president and CEO at Siemens Vietnam, said, “Siemens calls its approach to Industry 4.0 ‘Digital Enterprise’. With Digital Enterprise, Siemens offers solutions to address the specific requirements of manufacturing and processing industries. These solutions combine the world of planning and operation to create an integral plant management concept, covering the entire lifecycle of an industrial plant.”

However, there are not only foreign investors taking part in the race. Local tech companies are creating solutions for smart factories in Vietnam as well as teaming up with foreign partners to develop the market together.

Recently, FPT Software, the largest information technology service company in Vietnam, and Japan’s Toshiba Digital Solutions signed a memorandum of understanding to deploy Industrial Internet of Things solutions for the manufacturing industry. Under the deal, both sides will jointly help manufacturers adopt integrated smart factory solutions.

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