Productivity in Manufacturing

Productivity in Manufacturing – Key Takeaways

Among ASEAN enterprises, priorities for 47% of them lie in delivering operational excellence with cost reductions, and priorities for 21% of them lie in improving resilience and agility, according to an AIBP study Manufacturing & Supply Chain Growth in ASEAN: Technological Shifts and Opportunities.

Today at AIBP Insights: Productivity in Manufacturing, we addressed topics ranging from  current trends, future-proofing of manufacturing and supply chains with digitalisation and importance of human capital.

AIBP Insights is a series of discussions held online which brings together a focus group of ASEAN stakeholders to discuss topics related to enterprise technology adoption in the region.

Carsem (Malaysia) and Phan Vu (Vietnam), Finalists of the 2021 ASEAN Enterprise Innovation Awards, also showcased their innovation projects at the session.

The Enterprise Innovation Awards was established in 2017 by AIBP with the key objective of giving recognition to organisations who have embarked on projects to digitally transform their business through the adoption of innovative technology. The awards are held annually for ASEAN countries; Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Key points brought up today include the convergence of IT/OT in manufacturing, overcoming data silos and utilising dashboards for visualisation, and the importance of human capital.

The Convergence of IT/OT in Manufacturing

Manufacturing plants have two sides: operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). OT refers to systems that monitor and govern physical equipment such as plant equipment, pumps, machinery, and devices, whereas IT refers to digital information such as hardware, software, network infrastructure, storage, and cloud computing.

There is frequently a communication chasm between the IT and OT teams. Their languages, processes, and priorities are vastly different. To create a fully integrated smart factory, every manufacturing facility requires a method to bridge the data divide between OT and IT.

Regisarulraj, Business Unit Head – MEMS & Sensors Business and Rakesh Naidu, Senior Technical Specialist (Factory Integration), Carsem, Malaysia, both shared that IT, automation, and data would be the catalyst in moving both operations and the business forward over the next five to seven years. Lilian Lee, Head of Information Technology, Carsem, Malaysia, also stated that IT is no longer a department that operates in isolation. It must be closer to the business unit, and her experience working closely with the various business units makes it slightly easier for her to lead and drive this conversation at Carsem.

Kitti Nakornchai, Founder and Managing Director, Siam Innovative Motor Co. Ltd., Thailand, agreed and stated that while technology continues to play a significant role in digital transformation, it is critical to understand how technology, in turn, can improve execution and end results. Keeping an eye on the larger ecosystem and how technology can add value will be critical going forward.

Overcoming Data Silos & Utilising Dashboards for Visualisation 

Dr. Soknath Mil, Software & Geospatial Data Analyst Engineer, AAPICO, Thailand, shared that data collection is a relatively manual process in the multiple divisions across AAPICO’s factories in Thailand, with each division collecting data independently. This makes it difficult for them to fully analyse and utilise data generated. Dr. Soknath went on to share that they are working to reduce silos across divisions and unify their platform, which will allow them to have a dashboard overview of all the data in the sector.

TK Loh, Senior Director, Operations Engineering, K&S, too, uses live dashboards to present data to everyone. Line managers and production managers can each have their own dashboards to help with decision making. For example, if something goes wrong in a specific station, they would be able to investigate the root cause and with access to the serial numbers that can be traced back to a supplier. Having access to real time data is useful to his team when making decisions.

Shinichi Kawamoto, Senior Strategist, Application Service Division, Hitachi Ltd., Japan, added that data is being collected throughout the factory, and it is critical for managers to be able to visualise and prioritise the various problems that need to be addressed, such as production, supply chain, or quality problems. Identifying these problems via a dashboard can aid in the step-by-step improvement processes within a company, also known as Kaizen in Japan.

Tran Vu Anh Tuan (Tony), Deputy General Director, Phan Vũ, Vietnam, added that utilising various tools such as Power BI has helped managers in creating multi-dimensional reports as opposed to spending days collating the different data reports. Upon identifying the activities that can be done, the management at Phan Vu will identify the skills and capabilities that their employees are required to have, before training them. For example, after implementing Power BI, they trained their employees on how to do their own analysis and did a basic course on statistics.

Charles Sevior, Chief Technology Officer (APJC Region) Unstructured Data Solutions, Dell Technologies, Australia, agreed, emphasising the importance of mathematics and statistics as fundamental to such dashboard applications, as well as the use of scripting tools such as Python.

Importance of Human Capital

Erik Looi, Chief Information Officer, Alliance Contract Manufacturing, Malaysia, emphasised that businesses may not always have employees with the necessary skill sets, and they may not have enough employees to drive innovation. It is no longer sufficient to simply “do your job.” If you learn a programming language, it will either cease to exist or be in rapid decline a year or two later. When you adopt a new digital platform or app, you can expect it to change or be replaced by a better and more innovative program. Erik emphasised that for employees, this means that the ability to adapt—to be more agile—will be more important than the ability to master a job or skill.

TK agreed, and added that Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are an important part of their organization and that almost everything revolves around assisting them in their work. Offering training, instilling basic skills and knowledge, or bringing in outside help are all options.

Tony shared that at Phan Vu, where people are the foundation of their digital transformation, creating enjoyable experiences is critical. Building a Paperless Office, for example, is a fun experience for Phan Vu employees because they can easily access documented processes, notices, announcements, and regulations. Managers can also approve documents such as payment slips, equipment provision, and leave requests. While it may appear to be a relatively insignificant initiative, it saves employees a considerable amount of time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Concluding the discussion, the panelists agreed that manufacturers, and businesses in general, cannot wait for a crisis to transform. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about changes for which most businesses were unprepared. Companies were forced to change their operations almost overnight, hastening the need for digital transformation to cope with this new normal, in which business as usual was no longer possible. Many ASEAN manufacturers, especially those in advanced economies, have been looking for ways to capitalise on digital technologies. These “Industry 4.0” efforts are gaining traction in ASEAN, and many businesses are looking to adopt digital tools and technologies such as data analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things to improve their manufacturing competitiveness and prepare for the future.

The AIBP Insights series will continue in the next couple of months, where we will host focus groups on enterprise digitalisation in ASEAN on enterprise finalists. Finalists of the 2021 ASEAN Enterprise Innovation Awards and will also be showcasing their innovation projects for their organisation.

Check out more insights on ASEAN’s manufacturing and supply chain trends at Rethinking Supply Chains and Digitalisation in Manufacturing

Feel free to drop us a message if you would like to view the full session replay, or if you wish to find out more about upcoming focus groups!


28 October 2021