THE GOVERNMENT’S Thailand 4.0 initiative and Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) mega-investment programme have significantly boosted businessmen’s interests in automation and related technology investment, according to Chaiyot Piyawannarat, ABB’s managing director for Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
Chaiyot said many Thai enteprenuers are now keen to invest in the new growth or S-Curve industries such as food and beverage, electric vehicles, and robotics.
According to Chaiyot, food and beverage (F&B) has a strong potential because it is one of Thailand’s top-five exporters, with a combined employment of more than one million people and a relatively high percentage of local contents.
Overall, there are 8,000-9,000 F&B and related factories with the major players already investing in innovation, automation and new technologies while a growing number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are also considering to invest to boost their competitiveness.
“The big players have both vision and financial resources to invest but SMEs are also catching up,” he said, adding that F&B has a bright future due to various factors such as urbanisation of major cities around the world resulting in a higher demand for packaged food and related items.
For Thai F&B players, they have a competitive advantage in terms of abundant domestic raw materials but they need to innovate and automate their operations to stay |competitive in the global market.
In this context, ABB has offered a wide range of products to automate their production, warehouses and logistics while allowing food and other producers to have trace-ability on their products and raw |materials.
This will boost customers’ confidence and other stakeholders in the supply chain especially with regard to public health and other concerns.
In addition, enteprenuers need to be more flexible and responsive as far as their products are concerned due to the products’ shorter life-cycle and the growing popularity of mass-customisation.
To address the new challenges, factories and production lines need to be smarter with more sensors and other equipment installed on motors and machinery to collect data for predictive and other analytic.
Automation of sugar refineries, rice mills and factories in the F&B supply chain is now increasing rapidly as businessmen want to use less workers while boosting their factories’ productivity via automation.
In the long term, production cost is less and businesses can be more flexible and responsive to customers’ needs.
Chaiyot said artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and blockchain technologies are coming to the industrial and other sectors with factory asset maintenance among the first area to benefit from predictive analytic so that machinery can be fixed before it is broken.
This will reduce or even remove downtime of production lines, he said, adding that ABB also focuses on the energy sector which is undergoing revolutionary changes due to the advent of renewable energies such as solar and blockchain technology which allows peer-to-peer energy trading.
Electric vehicles are another area which is embracing new technologies so ABB is working on chargers and other equipment to facilitate the advent of EVs
Overall, ABB is adding more software and services to its wide portfolio of hardware and related products to capitalise on data-driven and real-time management of industrial and other assets using cloud-based computing facilities in partnership with Microsoft and IBM Watson.