Smart factory solutions in demand in Thailand
Source: Prasanth Aby Thomas, Consultant Editor
For the Thai government, the leap towards a technology-driven economy is inevitable. Major investments are expected to develop infrastructure and manufacturing divisions
. The government has reportedly set aside US$1 billion for highways, $2.8 billion to expand ports, $6 billion to upgrade the U-Tapao International Airport, $6.7 billion to build railways, including one for high-speed trains, $12 billion for new cities and hospitals and $15 billion for the industry.
Robotics is one specific area that is set to be a major focus
. About 30 percent of manufacturers in the country are already making use of robots but the government would like that to be raised to at least 50 percent.
According to Joseph Ngo Hong, Managing Director at Bosch Thailand
the key technologies that currently enable the digital factory in practice are the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning, 3D printing, and advanced robotics.
“Paperless exchange of information between man, machine, and a production processes on the shop floor, real-time collection, and visualization of all relevant data reduces the operational complexity and downtime,” Hong said. “Condition monitoring and predictive maintenance connected to various back-end systems (MES/ERP) will ensure maximum efficiency. Real-time visualization of Overall Equipment Efficiency is the common key performance indicator (KPI) for digital manufacturing. It helps management to evaluate the overall productivity of their factories.”
Chaiyot Piyawannarat, Country Managing Director at ABB said that while there is an array of smart technologies that can drive productivity in Thailand, automation including software solutions, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and robotics are finding more favor in the country.
“Some technologies are better-suited for specific industries,” Piyawannarat said. “For instance, automotive manufacturers, especially those in Tier 1-3, would significantly benefit from using robots to assemble vehicles to increase productivity.”
Other major solutions
Joyce Yeh, Deputy Director at the International Sales and Marketing Division of ICP DAS
listed seven major features that their solutions are offering in Thailand. These are predictive maintenance, industrial safety, environmental monitoring, energy management, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and traceability.
Of these, solutions for energy monitoring and management are often the most popular, according to Yeh, because they help to optimize the consumption of electricity and other resources, thereby bringing the operation costs down.
According to Chotivate Pheanphobsuk, IIoT Sales Manager at Advantech
, electronic equipment that supports high-quality and high-sensitive inspection are important.
“The global market electronic component is most necessary for upstream products in technology hardware,” Pheanphobsuk said. “For the inspection process, we have to use AI-based machine vision and laser grid pattern to support high precision goods. Most of valuable technology for smart factory must use high-efficiency industrial PC, for durable, and robust for harsh environments in the factory.”
The need to simplify production
According to Vuttipong Vongsankakorn, Industry Marketing Manager at OMRON Thailand
, the top three largest contributors to Thai
manufacturing are food, beverages, tobacco, electrical products, electronics, and motorcycle vehicles. Thailand was the second largest manufacturer in ASEAN at $136 billion in 2018. Such a scale requires solutions to make the process simpler and easier.
“Smart factories solutions are also becoming smarter, cheaper to install, and easier to operate,” Vongsankakorn said. “In manufacturing, robotics can potentially boost productivity as they operate 24/7, have little to no downtime, and can even aid in predictive maintenance. More importantly, robotics, with precision technology, can offer higher quality processes and create a safer work environment.”
Additionally, in today’s manufacturing landscape where products are increasingly customized and regularly updated, robotics can offer quick product changeover through flexible and highly reconfigurable production lines.
“One example is to solve the issue of labor shortages by automating lifting and transport tasks by using autonomous mobile robots,” Vongsankakorn continued. “Mobile robots outfitted with proprietary AI sensing technology can move autonomously through a plant without causing injury to employees or damage to property. We are working with customers to develop mechanics integrating robot, conveyor, and equipment, allowing these robots the ability to handle products of various sizes, shapes, and weights.”
Adaptive lifting and transport of this type will not only solve labor shortages but also create an environment in which humans can focus on creating higher value.