MALAYSIA’s manufacturing sector has been critical to the country’s economic transformation. Despite a challenging economic environment due to the pandemic over the last two years, Malaysia has continued to attract massive investments in the manufacturing sector.
The IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index was 50.9 in February 2022, up from 50.5 the previous month, indicating the fifth month of growth. Export sales increased for the second time in three months, with the expansion being the fastest in 10 months due to increased demand in the US and parts of Asia.
Furthermore, the manufacturing sector is expected to strengthen its recovery momentum in the first half of 2022, according to the 20th edition of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers-Malaysian Institute of Economic Research Business Conditions Survey.
In terms of technology-related strategies for the first six months of 2022, the survey revealed that 74% plan to implement Industry 4.0, while 66% and 44% are considering automation and digitalisation, respectively.
With technology continually shaping the landscape of every industry, being “smart” is the only way to go. But what does it mean to be a smart manufacturer?
Smart manufacturing brings together individual components to create an adaptable, data-rich manufacturing process. When machines connect and share information, manufacturers can pinpoint the root cause of any event on the shop floor, take a proactive approach to maintenance, and fine-tune processes for maximum efficiency.
Benefits of smart manufacturing
Smart manufacturing builds upon itself. When everything is quantifiable, manufacturers gain real-time insights into shop-floor processes. That interconnectivity can lead to a host of benefits:
> Automation – Perhaps the most significant benefit of all, it removes human input from processes to improve production, quality, or even safety.
> Fewer production errors – Data helps smart factories self-monitor and self-optimize while allowing them to locate and correct potential production errors before they turn into major problems.
> Less machine downtime – Data can help smart factories learn the best service intervals for each piece of equipment and plan proactive maintenance, reducing unexpected downtime.
> Faster decision-making – By combining big data, the internet, and cloud computing, manufacturers can predict, diagnose, prescribe, and describe the events impacting their operations and quickly take proactive or corrective action.
> Better supply-chain efficiency – From forecasting demand to defining customers’ payment terms, manufacturers can reduce risks and the cost of nearly anything they can quantify.
> A more efficient remote and mobile workforce – With automation, workers don’t always have to be on-site to be on the job. They can monitor production or control physical equipment from a mobile device.
Powering smart manufacturing
There are several technologies and new IT paradigms that are crucial for smart manufacturing:
> Industry 4.0 – A new phase in the industrial revolution that harnesses connectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data.
> Artificial intelligence – A computer’s ability to perform tasks and make decisions without human intervention.
> Machine learning – Machine learning allows artificial intelligence to adapt and improve over time as it gathers more data.
> Augmented reality – Adds information (graphics, sounds, or text) on top of what we already see in the real world. Think Pokémon Go. A worker could use a mobile device for a self-guided tutorial of an unfamiliar machine or work process in a factory setting.
> Digital twins – Like augmented reality, a digital twin is a virtual copy of a physical object. Sensors from the physical object can feed information into the digital twin, enabling the virtual monitoring of physical equipment. For example, a factory floor worker might “watch” a machine by following its digital twin on a mobile device.
> Cobots – Collaborative robots that learn new tasks quickly and are mainly used to complete dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks unsuitable for humans.
> Blockchain – A distributed ledger technology that can help improve asset tracking, trade finance, and conduct transaction settlements.
> Cyber-physical systems – Systems where a computer-based program (the “cyber”) interacts with and controls a real-world mechanism (the “physical”).
> IIoT – the Industrial Internet of Things connects machines over a network, improving output, energy management, and supply chain traceability while enabling predictive maintenance.
> Additive manufacturing – Also known as 3D printing, it builds parts and assemblies from digital files by adding material, rather than subtracting it as with machining. Once used primarily for prototyping, it is gaining traction for custom tooling, custom fixtures, and even custom end-products.
> ERP – Essential for smart manufacturing because it is the central location where data is collected, maintained, shared, and made available for use by other systems.
Preparing for Industry 5.0
The benefits of smart manufacturing are vast. It is why it is growing so fast, with tech-savvy companies becoming early adopters. According to a report from Markets and Markets, the global smart manufacturing market is projected to reach US$228.2 billion (RM1 trillion) by 2027 with CAGR of 18.5% from 2022 to 2027. But as smart manufacturing becomes the norm, they can also quickly widen the gap between them and their competition because of the speed of digital innovation.
Sustainability will also be another driver of smart manufacturing. Preliminary data already show that smart manufacturing could help boost sustainability with less waste, smarter energy consumption, better-maintained systems, and more.
To start your smart manufacturing journey, you need the right technology partner and ERP “backbone”. They can help you begin the process and ensure you’re set up to be more proactive, customer-focused, fast-paced, and sustainable.
This is only the start. With integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems helping to improve manufacturing quickly, there is already talk of an Industry 5.0.
This article is contributed by Epicor Asia regional vice president Vincent Tang.