Thursday, 27 December 2018

Bouncing back: A year of unexpected transition

This year interestingly been a year of unexpected transition. Apart from the obvious administration transition, tremendous progress was seen in the industry’s transformation – seen through a re-engineering and re-thinking across the entire industry, as well as the nation at large.
On its fundamentals alone, the industry is slowly bouncing back to the performances seen before the economy took its turn to uncertainty in 2015.
Domestic sales and production are expected to increase, compared with last year. Energy-Efficient Vehicle (EEV) penetration is expected to surpass its last year’s performance, and exports of parts and components are expected to improve year on year.
The best ideas are often generated through many differing views, a coin derives its value from its head and tail. As a nation, and for the industry in particular, more views were introduced into the system, bringing a higher value of ideas, solutions and thought leadership to the products and services we churn.
Since 2016, the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) – formerly known as MAI – had embarked on 9 pillars for implementation of Industry 4.0.
While numerous programmes were developed to prepare the industry for its inevitable future, industry readiness was  lukewarm as technology investment anxiety was high, especially among small and medium enterprises that took a wait-and-see approach before taking a new path head on.
A commitment is still change nonetheless, in fact it is this turning point that initiates transformation. This year, industry players initiated new responses to the call of Industry 4.0.
For the first time in Malaysia, blockchain technology was seen as a solution to the issues surrounding big data transmission and consumption. New education and skills programmes were initiated to fill in the gaps created for Malaysia to immerse its talent pool in technologies such as robotics and Internet of Things (IoT), additive manufacturing, manufacturing execution systems and connected mobility.
The “traditional” industry players also upped their game by introducing new products to the market. While Perodua’s Myvi, launched late last year, changed the entry level segment with the introduction of Advanced Safety Assistance; Proton introduced its first sport-utility vehicle (SUV) – not just a new segment for the national brand, but also its first connected car, a step forward into the future of connected mobility within our borders.
Through the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI), the government solidified its commitment through the National Policy on Industry 4.0, aptly named Industr4WRD.  This policy maps out the key pillars to achieve Industry 4.0 compliance, and introduced an initiative called the Industry4WRD Readiness Assessment.
The programme provides an objective assessment for participating companies in compliance to Industry 4.0 readiness, allowing them to be matched to relevant government agencies that may assist companies in accelerating their Industry 4.0 implementation towards global competitiveness.
Overall, this year transmitted a strong signal the nation is gearing up for this transformation. To brave and wade through 2019, one thing is key – while the nation has risen above numerous economic recessions, political transition and socio-cultural challenges, we must remember that the wealth of a nation is not just defined by its economy, but its wealth of talent and its ideas.
While the above achievements are but a small sample of the industry’s progress in the last year, we must always remember that the path ahead is still long and winded, and it is up to us as a nation to bring new solutions, thinking and mindsets to the world.
The generations of our forefathers make them known as heroes in times of war, turmoil and difficulty of a humanitarian base. As the generation that inherited their wealth and peace, our generation must be known for our innovation, creativity and socio-economic maturity. That responsibility is not for us leave on others, we must be heroes of our own challenges – bringing this nation to global heights.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Internet of Things for SMEs – Friend or Foe?

Perhaps the biggest barrier to perpetuate the use of technology within our economy is anxiety towards the technology itself. This fear of the unknown, usually in the form or risks associated with the investment, implementation and maintenance of expensive technology, may overwhelm the entrepreneur struggling with the various operations within their companies.

Any investment, procurement or hiring is a risk in itself, including technology. However, it is also possible that throughout the years, we have desensitized ourselves to the common risks when investing in infrastructure, personnel, utilities and other overheads that are norms to the conventional way of doing business.

This may often lead to technology investments as a secondary “bonus” should the business do well, or only reserved for large-scale companies with sizeable technology investment budgets.

On the contrary, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) actually allows for a rethinking of business practices, leading to solutions to risk management woes that have previously plagued conventional businesses.

While advanced technologies have been developed based on the IoT framework, such as manufacturing execution systems (MES) and Intelligent transportation systems, the beauty of IoT is its basic principle – any device that transmits data allows for access through any connection points through the cloud.

This unlocks a myriad of applications that are available for all types of businesses, including startups.

For example, cloud-based accounting and financial software are now affordable at rates previously inaccessible to small firms. These off-the-shelf applications are now capable of tracking and reconciling bank transactions, raising quotations and invoices and summarizing them into balance sheets and profit and losses, thereby eliminating the huge costs of clerical errors, audit preparation and cashflow management all in one go.

Also, with a small investment, inventory management can now be automated through cloud-based systems that track the flow of equipment and stock with minimal manpower, eliminating waste and inventory loss.

For the startup, this means business owners can reduce administrative burdens and focus on what matters most – the innovation and value-added activities within the company operations.

As small and medium enterprises form the most sizeable portion of the Malaysian economy, it is important that the normalization of technology utilization is made a key focus, particularly within startups.

While we all own a smartphone and computers, how many of us are maximizing the connectivity and processing capabilities of these powerful tools? Are we well versed with the various applications that have the potential to solve real business problems and present opportunities to enhance competitiveness of our operations?

In the age of overwhelming technology options and a multitude of choices in investment paths each with its own risks, perhaps the smartest approach to creating such normalization would be maximizing technology that is readily available.

With the recent rebranding of the Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), new intervention programmes are now under development to enhance the normalization of IoT-based technology within all levels of businesses, from technology startups to service centers, big or small.

Most importantly, technology adeptness is not only for the business owner, but also for the society at large. The ability to fully utilize human advancement is not in the technology itself, but the mindset and readiness of the human to accept change.

While we work on high technology penetration within the economy, MARii is committed to ensuring technology adeptness begins with the acceptance of technology at all levels.

Next year, the industry players and the public at large can expect new opportunities in enhancing their capabilities, understanding, knowledge and skills in the new applications and technologies related to robotics and IoT.

American philosopher and educator John Dewey once said: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”

The writer is the chief executive officer of the Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Rebranding of the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) to the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & Iot Institute (MARII) – a note from the CEO

The Malaysia Automotive Institute has been rebranded as the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute (MARii). The rebranding exercise expands our scope as the focal point, coordinating centre and think tank towards enhancing the competitiveness of the automotive industry and overall mobility, through the adoption of Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The advancement of automotive technology will create a convergence with overall mobility towards a higher degree of automation and connectivity. This is expected to spur greater cross-functional applications in Advanced Manufacturing and Advanced IT, with robotics and IoT applications rapidly becoming a fundamental requirement particularly in achieving Industry 4.0 compliance.
Together with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), MARii aims to unlock new avenues in accelerating the adoption of robotics and IoT within the automotive sector, at the same time aspiring to create technology spin-offs and applications in other areas and fields.
I look forward to greater collaboration between MARii and all relevant stakeholders, in creating a technology ecosystem towards a higher degree of societal benefit!
Dato’ Ts. Madani Sahari
Chief Executive Officer,
The Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute (MARii)
 MARii – An agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), previously known as Malaysia Automotive Institute

Thursday, 13 December 2018

New dimension for local automotive sector

ON the 4th of December 2018, at the Car of the Year 2018 – MITI Minister, YB Datuk Darell Leiking announced the rebranding of the Malaysia Automotive Insitute (MAI), to the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute.
Yesterday, I hosted a briefing for automotive industry players and the media –  on the goals, strategies, and programmes of MARii.
As this is the first article specific to MARii’s establishment, let me clarify the key role MARii will play through this rebranding.
Simply put, the establishment of MARii aims to future-proof the Malaysian automotive industry.
MARii will be the focal point, coordinating centre and think tank towards enhancing the competitiveness of the automotive industry and overall mobility, through the adoption of robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
This means that all programmes and activities conducted by MARii will still be focused on the automotive industry, while the scope of robotics and IoT creates a new dimension to MARii’s roles in accelerating these two elements within the sector.
While these two new areas are highly complex, the reason of MARii’s expansion is not as complicated.
The scenario of the future is clear – whether or not we are a consumer or a producer, robotics and IoT (and the elements associated with them) are converging.
In essence, a robot is a machine that perform automated functions, but most importantly has the ability to learn, reacting and enhancing based on the “experience” it receives over time.
It may eventually look like what we see in science fiction, but for now, they exist in other forms – vacuum cleaners, smart phones, self-driving cars and industrial assembly, to name a few, and they will improve learning capabilities in due time.
The IoT is the conduit, via a universal communication protocol, for anything that processes data or algorithms, which is built in everything now to transmit such data to a data server/processor in the cloud.
Previously, computers communicated with each other over the internet to transmit data for your email, research and information and communication needs.
Today, the internet can connect and transmit data between any object that has data to transmit.
Here, is the scenario we must address. When machines are intelligent, and they can talk to each other a vast distance away through the internet, imagine the new products, its associated manufacturing processes and service delivery systems that will be created.
The development of products and services that talk to each other forms that symbiosis between robotics and IoT.
At the end of the day, no matter how complex these technologies can be, the one that masters both holds the key to the future.
As far as the automotive industry is concerned, a rapid development of this trade is key – and MARii exists to kickstart the development of the fundamentals of robotics and IoT to address this future needs.
These fundamentals begin the with ability to design products and processes based on the applications of machine learning, artificial intelligence, connectivity and its applications in the automotive industry and overall mobility.
Lastly, we must be mindful that robotics and IoT are not meant to displace people from the jobs they have, but to enrich them with the skills to create even better things with the new technologies present before us.
Please stay tuned to the future developments, programmes and activities that will be conducted and implemented by MARii in this exciting new dimension we aspire to create for the automotive industry.
At its core, our function is very simply, to enrich the Malaysian people.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Thursday, 6 December 2018

A night that summarises four decades

The Car of the Year 2018 (COTY) concluded this week, recognising the contribution of the Malaysian automotive industry to the nation’s economy.
It was the third time since the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) – formerly the Malaysia Automotive Institute – hosted the event, continuing its tradition of holistic recognition of industry contribution in technology, price competitiveness, safety and energy efficiency in cars today.
My heartfelt congratulations go out to all the winners and nominees for your continued efforts and innovation in enhancing the competitiveness of the automotive industry.
There was however one addition to this year COTY, that transpires the awards beyond a review of 2018, but looked back four decades ago into the reasons why we are all here in the first place.
For the first time, COTY recognised the person that envisioned Malaysia’s industrialisation drive, through the establishment of the automotive sector.
The Lifetime Automotive Award recognised the father of the automotive industry, Tun. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as its first ever recipient.
Come January this year, this column would have entered its sixth year, speaking to the community at large about the ideas and solutions to take our industry to the next level.
Of course, it is miniature compared with the foresightedness of Dr. Mahathir’s vision, transforming an economic landscape that was heavily dependent on raw materials and commodities, to a producer of one of the most complex products in the world.
My first few articles were about the very reason the industry was mooted. The New Economic Policy envisioned a comprehensive social and economic transformation, making tertiary education a key focus, in areas of science, technology and engineering.
To ensure that meaningful careers were created at the time, the Heavy Industry Corporation of Malaysia (HICOM) was established,  creating the various national OEMs and 1st Tier vendors seen today within the ecosystem – the likes of Proton, HICOM, Modenas, etc.
This spurred the required economic activity, at both upstream and downstream levels, for Malaysians – state-owned enterprises a necessary backbone to this new technology-based economy, eventually graduating into a critical mass of privatised enterprises, preparing for market liberalisation within the globalised economy.
Most beautiful places are often only accessible by rough roads. Naturally, there were numerous paths towards success. His leadership, however, was based on reasoning and rationale – true to the science that he pursued – and created a culture of healthy debate and discussion in advancing the industry.
Since we started, the automotive industry is still Malaysia’s favourite debate topic.
Dr. Mahatir’s thoughts and ideas were delivered bluntly, and he did not hold back his reservations.
For me, this was key – it kept our scopes on the right track, it kept us grounded, and persistent in mastering our own craft, while slowly shedding the crutches of dependence on others.
Today, a new generation has taken over the helm of the automotive industry.
It is also a new world of mobility, with new technologies coming into the automotive foray for us to learn, experiment and eventually commercialise and produce for the world.
The faces, leaders and administration may change over time. However, we must always be mindful of why we exist as an automotive fraternity – we are responsible for the people, their families, businesses and institutions that contribute to the building of a nation that sits on the technological world map.
While our forefathers fought for their sovereign independence, our struggle today is the fight for economic and social independence – simply put, that starts with the understanding a goal set four decades ago, to emerge not as a leading consumer, but a leading producer of the world’s technology.
For me, Tun Dr. Mahathir’s Lifetime Automotive Award is not just a recognition of a man, but also a recognition and a refresher for us all, of the true cause to our existence as the automotive fraternity.
The industry may have been a vision of just one man –  for all of us, that vision is a roadmap and true path towards becoming a great nation.
I am honoured to be a product and a member of this great journey.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute (previously known as the Malaysia Automotive Institute)