Thursday, 1 September 2016

Intellectual unity vital to drive industry growth


The core stakeholders of the automotive sector - the industry players, academia and government bodies – have important roles to fulfill to ensure global competitiveness of the domestic industry. The synergy of all these factors contribute push-and-pull factors to each other to create a balance that drives technology acquisition and human capital development forward at a higher pace.

It is important to observe the key characteristics within the work methodology, field experience and financial mobility of each stakeholder, and derive the best direction to maximise their contributions and effectiveness towards the implementation of developmental projects that are scattered across the supply chain.

I have written previously about the importance of design capabilities among industry players within the domestic automotive supply chain in order to survive in the eventual and unavoidable liberalised global economy. 

However, developing design capabilities are an undoubtedly mammoth task, especially among small and medium enterprises, as they are competing in the shadow of more advanced nations that have had the luxury of an entire century to develop such capabilities.

This challenge is further exacerbated by industry needs to develop its design capabilities while overcoming daily operational hurdles - managing productivity, quality expectations and capacity constraints - rendering technology investments a risky venture to shoulder based on its operating cash flow, especially during uncertain economic times. 

It therefore becomes imperative that the greater intellectual ecosystem, comprising academia and government, is harnessed to expedite the development of domestic industry players, especially in research and development (R&D).

There are about 80,000 academics currently residing within our local institutions of higher learning, with more than a quarter holding doctorates across various fields. They comprise talents that are well versed with the proper methodologies of science, technology and innovation, and can be absorbed into collaboration with industry players to achieve the progression needed for competitiveness in the fields of product and process design, productivity solutions, as well as general enhancements within the automotive intellectual base.

As the same time, numerous publicly-funded institutions are ready to assist the industry, either from a technology standpoint, marketing, shared facilities and financial support. Organisations, such as the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia, the Malaysia Productivity Corporation, SME Corporation Malaysia and Malaysia External Trade Development Corp, have been set up to ensure that local enterprises can reduce their risk averseness in developing high value R&D capabilities.

The ecosystem to develop global competitiveness is not just aimed at basic R&D capabilities. As the world now moves into the fourth industrial revolution, the design infrastructure needs to be developed and revolve around massive influx of data and cloud collaboration capabilities. As we expect the complexity of automotive products and processes to place data points and sensors in almost every component and system within the transportation infrastructure – making the Internet of Things and Big Data Management an important component of development.

Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) recently launched the MAI Intelligent Technology Systems (MITS) to facilitate collaborative development programmes between all stakeholders. An important component is the Design Engineering & Prototyping (DEP) programme, a platform that allows such collaboration among the intellectual pool of experts to produce globally competitive products in the cloud.

To conclude, it is important to observe that Malaysia’s infrastructure has been established to allow for a conducive environment of intellectual excellence. 

All it needs is a concerted efforts from all stakeholders to ensure that intellectual unity is harnessed towards global competitiveness.

Every individual has strength and weakness. However, if we unite these individuals into an intellectual collective, the strengths shine and the weaknesses disappear.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

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