Thursday, 15 August 2019

Malaysia gearing up for technological success

LAST week, the International Trade and Industry Minister announced the company that will anchor the national car project.
DreamEDGE Sdn Bhd was appointed as the anchor company, and will receive support from Daihatsu Motor Corp in Japan to develop an advanced technology vehicle that can maintain a long term relevance, given the fast changing automotive and mobility ecosystem.
There has been substantial coverage, dialogue and polemics since the announcement. While some are relevant to the technical direction of the project, others took the discussion sideways to address administrative issues.
Moving forward, let me first explain the criteria to decide the anchor for national car, and then explain why this criteria makes the national car unique.
The facts are straightforward — the new national car is expected to be a B+ segment car, and will be designed, built and equipped with advanced technology and will be affordable to Malaysians.
As the project would be fully funded by the private sector, the details of the project are expected to be revealed in due time based on the anchor company’s business plan.
However, what makes a national car, national?
First and foremost, a national car must have a majority equity that is Malaysian, for obvious reasons.
Second, is that there must a high localisation rate, with at least 75 per cent of parts used in the vehicle supplied via a local value chain.
Third, the talent working within the company must be at least 98 per cent Malaysian, to ensure meaningful participation in the local automotive ecosystem.
Fourth, the car must be aligned with the definition of Next Generation Vehicles (NxGV). In simple terms, NxGVs are vehicles that use advanced powertrains (Energy-efficient ICE, hybrids, electric vehicles, etc) combined with technology related to autonomous or automated connected vehicles.
These vehicles are categorised by its five levels of autonomy, and the national car is expected to achieve higher levels over a specified period.
Fifth, the project must demonstrate a high percentage of research and development for all its parts and components. The only exception would be the vehicle platform, the standard practice for global original equipment manufacturers to share to ensure economy of scale.
Finally, the national car must be fully funded by the private sector to ensure a balance between successful business case and furthering the national industrialisation agenda.
I believe there is no disagreement that Malaysia needs a catalyst to spur the next “S-curve” to drive Malaysia through the phase of industrialisation
It is very clear that in order to achieve meaningful participation of Malaysian businesses and talent in advanced technology, we must take the bold, often unpopular steps in creating the new national car.
The criteria mentioned above clearly defines the government ambition to meet the people’s aspirations, and the new national car project is the best balance to achieve our goals.
In the meantime, the most damaging thing is when meaningful dialogue and opinions are drowned out by misrepresentation, cynicism, and misdirection of the real issues.
I implore Malaysia to keep the discussion on the national car going but ensure the dialogue reflects who we truly are: a nation geared for technological success.

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

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Expanding parts and components value chain

THE term “manufacturing sector” often leads the laymen to imagine vast factories with long production lines, droves of workers and robots putting pieces in place to build products.
While that’s the literal definition of manufacturing, it is not limited to the downstream activities on the production line alone, as capabilities of manufacturers also lie in key upstream activities in the design and development of products, tooling, and processes.
While the majority of Apple products are assembled in Asia, the sub-components are sourced around the world from the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Their research centres are also just as scattered around the globe, but the ultimate depiction of the Apple brand is their headquarters in Cupertino, California.
The location of its headquarters gives it that definition of Apple being a true American brand.
The bulk of their gross profits benefits their research and development (R&D), marketing and communications teams while possibly a smaller portion of the revenues goes to the manufacturing line and materials costs.
The point is this — the success of the manufacturing sector is not only dependent on lean production systems and strict quality control.
It also culminates from the abilities of manufacturers to develop products that meet consumer demands, are highly manufacturable and is designed with in process quality built in at the conceptualisation stage.
The automotive industry in Malaysia is well aware of the importance of such upstream activities, and the government is working closely with all stakeholders to develop industry capabilities in these upstream areas.
On a side note, the learning space for capacity building of the entire automotive value chain was the main reason behind the government’s creation of the automotive industry, to begin with.
Nevertheless, such awareness is not just the work of the industry, but rather the mindset and understanding of the nation as a whole, as we are aspiring towards full industrialisation.
This realisation is important for two main reasons.
Firstly, the mechanisms to encourage capacity building must be understood by all stakeholders.
Financing systems, policy makers, educational institutions, and regulating bodies must create the necessary structural framework to allow new investments, human capital supply, and business operations to flourish towards a more conducive ecosystem for upstream activities to take place.
Secondly, it becomes challenging for the mechanisms above to be implemented when it often goes against public opinion.
While constructive criticism is important to ensure a competitive market, the perception of “us versus them” may lead to difficulty in establishing the needed environment for meaningful local capacity development above the line of manufacturing activities alone.
It, therefore, is key that public clarity and understanding of issues, such as education policy, regulations and use of public funding, are established to allow a path of less resistance and increased interest and participation to strengthen the local industry, instead of purely taking the consumer position.
Understandably, the debate for R&D investments lies on the balance against production volume.
In the past five years, the exports of automotive parts and components have risen tremendously, demonstrating the growing confidence of the global markets in local parts and components manufacturers.
However, for us to progress even further, an increase in exports must also translate to higher margins that are accumulated through an increase in higher value, upstream activities that benefit local businesses and the talents what work within them.
To this end, the next phase for the government would be the introduction of future-proofed policies and roadmaps that address the large scale ecosystem which connects the various sectors that affect not only a more integrated technology ecosystem but also a more integrated consumer demand in the future.
In the meantime, the industrialisation of Malaysia is not a government agenda but a national agenda. Therefore, all of us are responsible to ensure that we support the local ecosystem and its products, and create the critical mass we need to spur the economy.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Automation journey can begin with cobots

Just like any other technology, automation technology has gone through the same revolution in terms of application, user-friendliness and reduced installation times, leading to cost reduction and ease of use for businesses.
For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), embarking on automation may seem a daunting task, with space limitation, skilled manpower, and investments being the top concerns.
The perception that robots are needed in the dozens and used only in large automotive assembly plants or high-precision electronics plants is long gone.
The emergence of robotic technology that can be programmed easily and saves space does not require heavy investments.
Enter the new age of collaborative robot, or cobot, a game-changing robot designed to work with humans in a shared workspace. Although the cobot was invented in 1996, the maturation of such technology was only seen in this decade.
In principle, cobots can safely work with humans, taking over repetitive tasks in the production cell while humans handle the more complex tasks where value is added.
Due to the increased accuracy of sensors and cameras, the risks of occupational hazards and human injury are almost eliminated.
With intelligent technology, cobots are easy to set up. Leading cobot manufacturers claim that the unboxing and setup experience is now reduced to half a day, where most of this focuses on the teaching process to allow the cobot to perform the intended tasks.
Cobot technology has also evolved to become more user-friendly, reducing the burden of expensive labour in small businesses. Cobots can be programmed to do more advanced tasks. If you can work with a smartphone, there is very little learning curve needed to program a cobot.
Interestingly, this is a potential solution to the issues surrounding our workforce.
Cobot technology not only increases the accuracy and productivity of businesses but also reduces barriers for careers in automation. If technology such as this can be easily learned, it will create more access for entry-level skills-based career routes, and allow business owners to eliminate menial, repetitive tasks that are highly-dependent on unskilled labour.
Perhaps the major barrier is the upfront investment for such technology. The government is working closely with financial institutions to allow businesses to embark on Industry 4.0 technologies.
By the time this article is published, the three-day Malaysia International Robotics and Automation Technology Exhibition and Conference would have entered its second day at the Setia City Convention Centre.
This would be an opportune time for businesses to explore new automation technologies, speak to experts and seek advice from the government on how they can quickly implement automation strategies.
From the government’s standpoint, automation is not designed to eliminate jobs but create opportunities to enrich businesses and talents so that they can become part of a higher value economy in the global market.

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

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Integrating cybersecurity into business strategies

It is clear that with the advent of Forth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), businesses are expected to move many of their operations into the cloud domain.
While the technology becomes more affordable and competitive, there is an urgent need for stronger cybersecurity.
Such urgency arises from the need to not only protect one’s data but also data that belongs to other parties, including clients with strong non-disclosure agreements.
The lack of cybersecurity systems within a business may become a liability should there be a data breach or leakage during the order of business.
It is therefore important that businesses understand the scope of cybersecurity measures that must be in place along the business growth cycle.
Technologies pertaining to cybersecurity are getting more advanced and affordable, and can cover basic requirements of businesses.
Advances in cybersecurity are driven not by internal innovation, but rather by the innovation from cyber attackers who pose threats to businesses.
Therefore, cybersecurity strategies are unique, in which the vigilance and discipline of protection must come through consistenly from the top management down to the operational floor.
To start, there are similarities that can be drawn in comparison to conventional security practices. It is common that employees are told to keep doors locked and appliances switched off at the end of the working day.
In the case of cybersecurity, the same overtness must be carried out. Businesses should start the deployment of cybersecurity with the basic issues, such as the installation of updated anti-virus and anti-malware systems (which often come bundled as complete packages these days), regular backup systems and basic safety practices to prevent attacks or information leaks through online communication channels.
As the business grows in data complexity, new technologies can be deployed, including advanced hardware authentication systems, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and advanced cloud-based crisis management systems.
As we speak, new cybersecurity concepts are being developed, seen through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, leading to new innovations such as cognitive security, a holistic system that automates many of the processes mentioned above, making it more timely, accurate and less dependent on human awareness.
Another interesting approach worth mentioning is data anonymisation, in which data is made “invisible” instead of requiring protection.
As we progress into the age of connected mobility, it is obvious that businesses should develop awareness within their organisations and deploy the necessary levels of implementation to secure their data from potential threats.
Moreover, the advantage of becoming the first movers in the region not only protects the interests of our businesses and the value chain we depend on, but also creates new opportunities in businesses and jobs that require skills in coding, programming, networking and other sectors.
In conclusion, the importance of integrating cybersecurity models into business strategies cannot be overstated.

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

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Encouraging SMEs to adopt automation

In 2017, in an article published by ARK Investment Management, it forecast the average cost for industrial robots to be less than US$11,000 (RM 45,320) by 2025. The figure was US$131,433 in 1995.
The sharp fall in automation cost, driven by higher demand increasing efficiency, and precision of manufacturing makes it reasonable for small and medium businesses to invest in Robot Process Automation.
Automation strategy can be an essential part of modern enterprises’ growth.
The increasing flexibility of robotics design and construction, coupled with new breakthroughs in technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision and human-robot collaboration (termed collaborative robots, or cobots), make it easier to cater to volume-based demand.
A report in 2017 placed Malaysia’s industrial robot adoption at only 45 units per 10,000 employees, or less than half of the global average of 85 units.
In 1938, the Konrad Zuse Binary Computing Machine was introduced using the binary code system seen in today’s modern computers.
However, the widespread use of these machines in personal and business domains was only seen half a century later as the invention of microprocessor was made possible through advancement of transistor technology to bring prices and sizes down – leading to the new business and job markets in the information-technology sector.
The major historical point was the development of graphical user interfaces, including the introduction of Microsoft Windows. This innovation in user friendliness unlocked computers for the masses, removing the need for specialized skills in disk operating systems. The Internet revolution at the turn of the 21st Century changed the way we conduct businesses forever.
Automation is today going through the same revolution – interfaces are becoming more user friendly and hardware becoming highly affordable – which is seen through exponential sales growth of industrial robotics in the last five years.
While the hype created may not be accentuated by a household name such as Microsoft or Apple, it doesn’t discount the fact that the global business ecosystem has placed necessity on robotics adoption at all business levels.
Business development programmes must instill automation as an essential tool at the core of strategic planning and business modelling at all levels of businesses, be it micro enterprises or large conglomerates in Malaysia.
The Malaysia International Robotics & Automation Technology Exhibition & Conference (Robotex) will be the first-of-its-kind robotics exhibition in Malaysia, to be held at the Setia City Convention Centre from July 31 to August 2.
The conference, co-organised by Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), Malaysia Robotics and Automation Society (MyRAS) and One International Group, will allow participants, especially among small and medium enterprises, to explore emerging robotics technology in various areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and Internet of Things (IoT) and their applications towards the development of automation-infused operation models, including methodologies in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the education sector.
MARii and MyRAS will also host a continuous seminar on the adoption of automation of robotics in the automotive, mobility and other relevant sectors. The first seminar, featuring cases of automation from South Korea, will be held in MARii’s headquarters in Cyberjaya next Thursday.
While programmes such as these are becoming more common, the private sector is also reducing barriers for Malaysian businesses to adopt them.
ABB Group, for example, announced the opening of its first robotics Digital Operations Centre in Malaysia recently, catering to the needs of industrial robotics and digital manufacturing, and applying Industry 4.0 compliant technology within the business development process.
While this may just be a start, it shows the tremendous potential for all levels of business to access and unlock avenues for new business thinking and the creation of a critical mass of professionals that have the needed capacities in the smart digital manufacturing age.
Most importantly, they are enablers that convert imagination into business strategy.

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Learning and mastering skills in industries

THE famous Hollywood movie, The Karate Kid, ended with the smaller, more innocent boy delivering a powerful blow to the bigger and stronger opponent, who had continously bullied him. –

It was a dramatic ending to a competition where the winner was completely unknown and inexperienced.

For me, the story was more about personal development. All great martial art triumphs began with the first step of developing strong foundations. The teacher teaches the basics of his craft by strengthening the student through simple daily chores such as waxing cars, painting walls and washing windows.

There were good scenes from the movie that conveyed a simple message: while you may know the great moves from emulating the masters on the silk screen, you can only move as quickly and precisely when the basic foundation have been mastered.

Skills can seldom be taught. They can be coached to ensure proper, continuous practice. They are then strengthened through sound theory and knowledge of the art.

In developed countries such as Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom, individuals with skills and craft are revered – particularly those with years of experience, specialising in a particular area.

In the automotive sector, for example, these individuals are highly paid as the services they render are irreplaceable, even by the most precise automation.

If you go to the right places, such as the custom body shops in Ferrari, or the interiors craftsmen of Aston Martin, you’ll see craftsmen who are well respected by their peers, executives and their management for their contribution to the finesse of the brand they work for.

They set high standards in working the vision and mission of the founders and management of the firms they belong to.

The question is, how do we cultivate a skilled workforce with specialised talent, mindset and culture in our own organisations?

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has recently emerged a household name among education practitioners and industry players seeking highly skilled individuals to join their talent pool.

There are many forms of TVET based programmes, but all TVET programmes utilise teaching methods – formal or informal – that develops the required knowledge, skills and culture for students to join the workforce upon graduation.

The Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute has implemented TVET within its numerous programmes such as IPC (Industry Led Professional Certificate), AICE (Automotive Industry Certification Engineering) and Industry Led Graduate Apprenticeship programme.

While the popularity of TVET based programmes have penetrated the education sector in an encouraging manner, the development of skills must also take place in the form of on job training, either in training centers or better still, within the industry – where the practice of such skills are in the real-time environments of the factory, in order to maximise the learning process.

It is therefore important for the industry to support the placement of skill potentials. The government is ready to support industry players that are willing to participate. In fact, the national car companies have become catalysts for the local workforce to develop their skills and work culture in real time.

Above all, the skills route must be recognised with the same respect and recognition on par with the route of university education.

We must ensure that our skilled workforce are recognised and encouraged to develop specialised skill within their industries.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways”


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

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Creating equal access to opportunities

The adage "the rich get richer, the poor get poorer" - typically attributed to the more sinister side of capitalism - has some truth to it. This piece is by no means an argument on the merits or demerits of capitalism, but rather a look into the ability to grab opportunities in an "equal" world.

I am blessed that my work gives me a view of the inner workings of a massive industry. Most of all, I am honoured to meet many of the most successful people in the country, region and on some occasions, the world.

We have seen and heard the stories. Most successful personalities have the ability to break through norms and wade through gigantic hurdles to achieve the unthinkable. They reached the moon, redefined transportation and reinvented life through the game changing technology.

With there is no intention to undermine such great achievement, it is also important to spare some thought that the struggles of life are highly subjective. For some, an uncharged phone battery may cause some struggle, but for others,  a home without basic necessities can become a way of life.

Unfortunately, economic prejudice is often be dismissed as a by-product of capitalism. It is easy to judge someone as unsuccessful simply by his or her social status. They can be accused of being unproductive, uninterested or simply making wrong life choices.

For example, entrepreneurship is not something we are born with despite it seemingly considered a "sixth sense" that some may possess above others.

In this particular case, I would argue this entrepreneurship is often a product of long term conditioning. If you come from a culture, family or circle that has entrepreneurship tendencies, there is a high likelihood you will learn the trade from those in your environment.

Another example is language. Have you ever wondered why that friend you have speaks excellent Malay or English?The most likely reason is that he grew up around people who spoke these languages.

This brings me back to the subject of poverty. If you are blessed with food, shelter, and perhaps a computer and internet at home, the access to technology becomes a non-issue, allowing you to achieve bigger things. If getting food is your daily struggle, you may not find the time to even think about your choices between an iOS or an Android.

It is for this very reason that upward social mobility should be looked at holistically. For the poor, their struggles often keep them trapped in their income class, whether they are single mothers, orphans or people of disabilities.

Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) recently launched its corporate social responsibility programme called TransforMARii.

It is a one-year programme to help underprivileged households to become financially sustainable in the future.

Through TransforMARii, these families receive assistance to improve their social upward mobility.

They receive continuous assistance through job matching, small and micro business coaching and facilitation, high value service enhancement (such as e-commerce platforms and smart handicrafts), talent development programmes and others.

As we move aggressively into the era of connected mobility, we cannot leave anyone behind.

The upcoming National Automotive Policy aims to make the industry all-inclusive in terms of opportunity. And to that end, we must truly keep to that mindset of ensuring opportunity is equal and accessible.

I hope we can make the world a better place as we move closer to becoming an advanced nation.

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

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Managing change key to future-proof industry

The Paris agreement signed in 2015 signified an intensified global outlook on the new environmental economy, despite a bumpy journey in the Obama-Trump transition.

Regardless, a significant takeaway is a global commitment to meet its 2030 targets - and with such a commitment comes an expectation that the economy and business practices will put a premium on new eco-friendly policy, management and technology models.

It is for this very reason that concepts, such as circular economies, social enterprises and extended producer responsibility, have surfaced in recent years.

As a nation gearing towards advanced status, it is natural that issues of the environment often find difficulty in reaching public centre stage - as deep green policy dialogue are often challenging when economic interests take a priority over them.

The common theory is economic pragmatism puts income generation above all else - any discussion on social responsibility can only come about when there is some degree of comfort and excess, or when the government or market forces themselves are willing to subsidise the "bonus" of environmental protection.

However, the paradox is when the world moves faster than income generation, to a point that we end up being disadvantaged for not applying appropriate eco-policies, and developing the scale to be part of this new environmentally responsible global economy.

In the transportation sector, the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has taken centre stage in recent years. It is a concept that integrates various transportation services - public and private - into a single, unified mobility service that can be accessed by anyone at any given time.

Traditionally, to get between two points, one had choices to either use public or privately owned vehicles. This meant that if one did not own a car, the transportation (or mobility) experience was highly dependant on the ownership of others, with natural difficulties accessing areas where there were few public transport options.

Inversely, if you owned a car, it was perhaps easier to move precisely at a time of choice and in the comfort of your own personal space, but when it came to the costs and time to find parking, the comforts of using public transportation emerges. Furthermore, the opportunity costs of vehicles sitting idle most of the time in the parking lot made the silo of vehicle ownership expensive and a waste of carbon footprint.

The concept of MaaS addresses this very problem of transportation silos. In line with environmental best practices, the general idea is to reduce vehicle ownership and encourage the use of public transportation.

The key difference is that MaaS allows customisation of transportation needs through the use of technology, providing travellers with a "menu" of available options. One may start with a bus, a train and end the journey with a car - but in this situation, the car belongs to a private owner who is sitting in his office and not using during office hours.

The description above is but a glimpse of the entire MaaS framework, but this example changes not only how we view transportation, but also how businesses need to adapt to new models.

Automotive vendors will have to consider mobility vendorship, with products that are not sold only to car manufacturers but also to the manufacturers of different modes of transportation.

Manufacturers may have to sell more to fleet owners and reduce their dependence on individual ownership. Frameworks and regulations in the case of insurance, for instance, may have to adapt to the fact that more cars will be shared by many users, and not just the title holder.

Although the business models may change, the scales of business don't disappear. The only caveat is the ability to change and adapt quickly, as well as implement change management systems that can make adaptation more rapid and with less resistance.

For the government, they key is to create a conducive ecosystem for business to flourish, human capital to develop and for regulation to spur awareness and enhance culture.

The upcoming National Automotive Policy expects to make MaaS an important pillar of future mobility development in Malaysia.

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

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Manoeuvring along new regional value chain

Last week, Malaysia welcomed the delegation from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Led by Minister Miao Wei himself, I echo the sentiments of our international trade and industry minister of such a rare honour for Malaysia to receive a visit from an official of this esteem within the Chinese government.

Speaking at the China-Malaysia Roundtable hosted by international trade and industry and organized by MARii, the MIIT minister talked about the similarities between our two countries, highlighting our aspirations in the development of science, technology and engineering.

He said both countries needed to promote innovation and development, and called for a higher degree of collaboration between Malaysian and Chinese businesses in new technology innovations.

Despite China’s large economic might, the humility shown by the minister and his delegation symbolizes the common cultural values we hold here in the far east, translating into the economic policies and approaches in technological development we see today.

Looking back into history, there have been major shifts in global centers of economic and technological dominance, from ancient Greek and Roman empires shifting all the way to the Islamic civilization a thousand years later.

In modern times, the dominance of the British moved industrialization to a higher level in Europe, spilling over to North America, while the rise of Japan started shifting balance of the global economy towards the east. Today, this shift to the east has also given emergence to the new technological powerhouses of Asia – South Korea and China.

hile the world figures out the intricacies of global trade norms, the shift in global technological geo-positions closer to our region should be celebrated. With a market size that comprises close to half of the world’s population, it creates new opportunities to be part of this new regional value chain in the Far East.

Within the first half of this year, the Malaysian government had already renewed its ties through working visits to the technological powerhouses mentioned above – thus creating new inroads for collaborations and trade partnerships between Malaysian businesses and Japanese, Korean and Chinese corporations.

From the industry perspective, these economies along with Malaysia form the handful of economies in the world that possess full-fledged automotive design, development and manufacturing capabilities.

However, in a fast-moving world, connected mobility is fast the concept of full-fledged automotive economies are also quickly evolving.

As discussed in previous articles in this column, the automotive sector will eventually evolve into the overall mobility sector, where the vehicle is connected to every aspect of our logistics, daily activities, work and school life, and others.

This ecosystem challenges the norms of traditional vehicle manufacturing, sales and after sales business models

However, at the core of this transformation process is the successful shift towards policy that is based on Next Generation Vehicles (NxGV), Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Industry 4.0 adoption.

To create an ecosystem conducive for the local development of these tech, it is key that new tech centres are established, including eco-car assessment programmes, autonomous vehicle test beds, full-fledged vehicle type approval centres, as well as centers of excellence in manufacturing, advanced robotics, internet of things and overall mobility.

As the region develops technologically in this era of connected mobility, it will created new in-roads for a regional value chain within the Far Eastern Region, close to the Asean region.

These new developments are a testament of Malaysia’s foresight in the timely planning and implementation of a renewed automotive direction towards connected mobility, as it paves the path for meaningful participation of Malaysia in the new era or science, technology and engineering.

The key takeaway here is that as the wave of global technological economy shifts our way, it is important that we learn, study and participate along with others who have achieved tremendous success.

The best in the world are who they are because they train with the best on a daily basis.

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

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Potential trade opportunities in South America

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking recently concluded a trade mission to South America, with the Malaysian delegation strengthening economic ties with Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

I had the great honour of accompanying the minister and MITI officials throughout the trade mission, along with senior counterparts from the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), both sister agencies of Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) under MITI.

These South American economies have a lot in common with Malaysia.

The first stop was Santiago, Chile, one of the most competitive economies in Latin America, where the Malaysian delegation connected with the Chile-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce (CAMCHIMAL) and Chamber of Automotive Parts and Components (CAREP).

The meetings explored the opportunities to improve trade and investment relations in various sectors including automotive, ICT mobility solutions, and Internet of Things (IoT) sectors.

An important outcome of the Chilean round is that both countries agreed to organise a high impact showcase of each other's strengths and capabilities in automotive component design and production in Chile by the end of this year.

The next leg of the trade mission was Buenos Aires, Argentina - Malaysia's third largest trading partner in the South American continent.

During the visit, the trade mission spent time with Argentina’s Production and Labour Minister, Dante Enrique Sica, on possible collaborations in the areas of Industry 4.0, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) and automotive parts and components.

The next round of talks were held in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, Brazil - a nation with a large market size and sophisticated business community.

It is important to note that many opportunities exist from the similarities between Malaysia and the largest country in this region, particularly in the trade of automotive parts and components, as well as new opportunities in the remanufacturing sector.

Overall, the trade mission was an eye-opener to the similarities and aspirations our nations have in developing our respective economies.

As one of strongest proponents of connected mobility in our region, the possible connection between our two countries across the South Pacific poses new opportunities for Malaysia - with interest growing in the region for partnerships and collaborations in new technology areas.

Malaysia also sits in a geographically as a gateway for automotive trade directly across the South Pacific Ocean.  The inflow and outflow of products and services along this route allows for new value chains to be built and developed between the ASEAN and LATAM regional markets.

For example, the 4R2S standards - the first of its kind in the world - was introduced through MARii in 2016 for the governance and implementation of repair, reuse, recycle, remanufacture, services and spare parts within the automotive sector. This creates new opportunities in the areas of awareness, consultation and certification of such standards within the global markets.

The growing connectivity sector opens up new avenues for business in the emerging Mobility-as-a-Service sector, which includes the numerous IoT based products and services, in particular system integrator companies looking to provide alternatives for technology.

These businesses have tremendous potential applications in mining, agriculture and even e-hailing, as the business demands are not yet fully developed within this region.

I hope the long Raya break has given us the needed rest and served as a refresher to return to work more determined and productive. It is now time to face new challenges, and take these new opportunities and start planning for bigger things for the remainder of the year.

I'd also like to wish my readers Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin.

"The secret to success is to be ready when your opportunity comes"

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

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Competitiveness is developing core capabilities

The United States-China trade war that started early last year took another twist last week with new US restrictions on technology that could pose a risk to its national security, and worst affected by the ban was Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a leading provider of technology equipment.
The restrictions led to a ban on the Chinese technology firm from buying components and technology made in the US.
Interestingly, Huawei’s founder seemed to brush off the impacts of the restrictions, saying its 5G push wouldn’t be affected and, in fact, boldly proclaimed that “nobody will be able to catch up” with Huawei.
Ren Zhengfei also thanked the US suppliers for their support previously and said his company would survive and thrive.
While only time will tell how this will play out – how long this trade war will last, and what are the impacts it will pose to companies and value chains around the world – the key point that struck me was how bold these companies can be in the face of crisis.
To be as bold in the face of global adversity requires confidence backed by core capabilities that are unrivalled and dominant.
The ability to develop and supply 5G networking equipment has been a driver in the Chinese technology firm’s dominance, allowing it to evolve into the world’s biggest supplier of telecommunications equipment. Huawei leads market shareholding in mobile soft switches, broadband cards, optical hardware and mobile network equipment, among others.
The brand is not only strong within the business-to-business market but also the business-to-consumer markets as the third largest global market shareholder after Samsung and Apple Inc.
The brand popularity emerged through strong blends of traditional public relations campaigns and clever digital marketing. Most importantly, it boasts 21 research and development institute in countries all over the world – creating high-end careers for a multinational network of expertise and value chains.
All this was built in the span of only three decades, as the company was founded by Ren in 1987, and in the same space as major technology names the likes of Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Nokia and Ericsson.
When we cite examples such as Huawei of China, Nokia of Finland, Ericsson of Sweden – the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. For us to move forward and develop our capabilities, there are no standards or criteria for success.
Advantages and disadvantages can be broken by a multitude of political, social or economic disruptions. Populations – large or small – have all recorded global success, and countries have emerged from war and poverty to become global economic superpowers in the span of mere decades.
As a nation moving in the area of connected mobility and technology, it is important to look into developing critical mass and core capabilities in emerging technology fields, particularly in automation and Internet of Things-based technologies such as artificial intelligence, nano-engineering, data science, vehicle connectivity, etc, to ensure a thriving value chain exists and has the capabilities to meet global demands.
As the transportation and telecommunications industries converge in the future, policy frameworks, regulation and implementation must be realigned with new business strategies and development to ensure continuity.
It is important for us to study the trends that affect the global economy, and foresee how it will benefit our own economy.
Analysts have suggested that Malaysia is well placed as Chinese firms relocate their supply chains due to the trade war, particularly in communication, electronic integrated circuits and natural gas products – due to our business-friendly environment and stable policy administration.
As I pondered how one man can be so confident in facing risks worth billions of dollars, I realised that risks can be mitigated through perseverance, self-development and foresight.
You don’t need a backup plan if your preparation presents one whenever you need it.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Building meaningful employer-employee relationship

There is a significant distinction between employment and employability. While the opportunities for employment are aplenty in Malaysia, it is equally important to identify the demands and requirements of the said jobs.
Creating a progressive society means developing a critical mass of highly employable talent. As many seek for their dream jobs, employers too look for “dream worker” who can meet the demands of the industry – from the technical, moral and professional standpoints.
Let’s look at the employer-employee relationship from both perspectives. The modern corporate world has evolved to a point where there is a need to create work-life balance for employees – a lack thereof leads to increased health hazards, reduced productivity, etc.
In the past few years, the debate about wage gaps had continuously recurred, indicating public sentiment that Malaysians were largely underpaid compared with more advanced nations. Unfortunately, it is not just a matter of regulation, but rather a sense of value between two parties.
Any contract between two or more consenting parties must be as fair as possible by protecting the interest of all involved.
In an employment contract, the employer pays a certain fee (or salary) in exchange for services rendered by the employee and the employee by obtaining a fixed income. Conflict arises when the employee feels overworked, exploited or undercompensated or the employee’s performance becomes an issue for the company.
Now, perspective is key to a positive way forward. The tipping point for a healthy employer-employee relationship is often not the price, but more about the value of the relationship.
While it is natural for direct or indirect revenue to be generated from an employment contract, the employee increases the image and value, and new capacities and capabilities of the organisation’s arsenal. In return, the company absorbs the risks of employment to provide an environment of financial security and continuous learning for the employee.
This synergy from the employee-employer relationship is what pushes both towards higher income and greater capabilities over time.
However, one thing has changed – while job opportunities are increasing, the ability to fill them has evolved as we progress through Industry 4.0. Today, skills training are highly specialized and require a reinvention of adult learning to keep up with the demand of the fast-paced learning curve.
It, therefore, becomes highly important to address employability of our current workforce by  ensuring relevance and competitiveness in the future.
Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute has implemented several programmes to cater to rapidly changing learning curves through the Industry Led Professional Certificate and the Automotive Industry Certificate Engineering.
These programmes not only add current industrial dimensions through modules in IATF 16949, automotive core tools and a deep understanding of the five sectors of the automotive industry, but also advanced subjects in Internet of Things and robotics specific to component manufacturing processes within the automotive supply chain. This includes original equipment manufacturing-specific processes within body, paint and assembly works.
Trainees will be exposed to the underlying programming and coding needed to achieve the productivity levels of automotive manufacturing in line with Industry 4.0.
More importantly, the trainees undergo on-job-training with the industry for six to eight months, as future competency is not only based on skills and knowledge, but also passion, motivation and culture that can only be inculcated through first-hand experience on the job.
At the end of the day, employment is not an activity, but a relationship and experience that enriches the individual. It works to develop the society as a whole.
This Ramadhan, let us self-reflect and re-evaluate our values – identifying our weaknesses, strengthening our advantages, and remembering those in need.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Time for reflection and self-discovery

We are fortunate to yet again celebrate the coming of another month of self-reflection.
While we cleanse our bodies, free our minds and hearts from sins, and enrich our spirits with prayer and good deeds through the ritual of fasting, I’d also like to take this opportunity to share new angles, perhaps seldom discussed among us – in the spirit of self-reflection.
In order to do this, let us look back at history.
The battles of Badr and Tabuk were fought in 629 and 634 AD, respectively – interestingly both took place in the month of Ramadan.
The success in the battle of Badr, particularly, stamped the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) position as an important figure within the region, paving the way for more successes for Muslims in the next few years. Furthermore, Ramadan also saw the peaceful conquest of Makkah by the Prophet, circa 630 AD.
Clearly, some of the most significant events in Islamic history was achieved in a time of fasting.
From the perspective of basic human needs, the prohibition of food and water intake is seen as a disadvantage to those who are fasting. We also tend to develop a sense of empathy for the fasting person, out of respect for such as “demanding” practice.
At the same time, the person practising also may seem entitled to certain “rights”, such as reduced workload and designated time in preparation of the daily breaking of the fast.
While it is common practice out of respect for the holy month, we must also be aware that the we are fortunate to have such a choice – to slow down during the fasting month.
History shows that is never a choice granted for everyone.
Which is why, in self-reflection, we should never take our fasting as an excuse of disadvantage, or as a given right to reduce our own burdens.
In fact, for many of us in this country, we have always had the luxury of the choice mentioned above. It is for this reason, Ramadan presents us with opportunities to strengthen our of humility values and to help others.
It is a clear and noble principle for those who are privileged to always help those who are less fortunate. This help may not be only monetary, but most importantly, it should be done to bring opportunities to those who need them. The act of giving zakat fitrah enshrines this – although it is a small token equivalent to two bushels of rice, it is mandatory on those who are able, male or female.
On top of the zakat paid, there are many ways for us to help the unfortunate. If you don’t have money to spare, teach someone a new skill, give away things you may not need – in some way or another it will help someone.
In conclusion, while we take in the daytime hunger and thirst during Ramadhan, always remember that there are those who face this hunger and thirst throughout the day and around the year.
Also, remember that for some, this hunger and thirst was not an excuse to execute strategies and plans that changed their destinies and achieved great success.
This Ramadan, let us again take a step back with patience, open mindedness and a willingness to change. Let us also reflect on how, as a nation, we can achieve higher levels of success and remain competitive in a world, where values and virtue can easily be eroded due to the nature of competition.
“We do not learn from experience, but we learn from reflecting on experience.”
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Time to recognise skills-based careers

Numerous reports were published about the Malaysian government’s visit to China last week, triggering numerous collaborations between local and Chinese firms, particularly in the new technology areas such as artificial intelligence, smart logistics and automotive design.
One should ponder how China, once known only for the flood of cheap goods into the world’s markets, has emerged not only as an economic powerhouse but also a contributor to the global technology renaissance as the world goes through its fourth industrial revolution.
Against all odds, brands such as Huawei, Lenovo, Alibaba, and DJI have become household names when it comes to technology applications that are on par with traditionally dominating brands around the world.
One of the major contributors to China’s success has been its large pool of skilled labour. Out of its 165 million skilled workforce, a third are “highly-skilled”. This is a large number compared with the rest of the nations in the world.
The key point here is simple: in order to remain competitive, the critical mass of recognised skilled workforce cannot be overstated.
Similar to the previous industrial revolutions, led primarily by the trans-Atlantic dominance, a skilled workforce played a vital role in the industrialisation of major western economies.
In Germany, more than 500,000 young people graduate from apprenticeship contracts – a system of education in which they are attached to an occupation within a company, related to a skills area of interest.
The apprentice also attends school where more comprehensive theory and subjects are taught to supplement and enhance the professional ability of the apprentice, eventually emerging as a skilled specialist in his or her trade.
While many successful education models can be emulated to breed both academically-oriented and skilled talent, at the core of the issue is the recognition of skills as a viable career.
In this case, I am not referring to the plentiful skills recognition programmes that already exist, such as the National Skills Certificate, in which the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute is the industry lead body for skills development in the automotive industry.
Rather, we must recognise skills as a viable career choice – as a society. To achieve this, a paradigm shift must take place at all levels, within the home, the workplace, the school and also at a governance level.
Perhaps the solution to a shortage of places in universities may not lie in the creation of new placements, but rather in the appropriate placement of potential talent.
Our society at large must refrain from labelling those who are not academically prone as failures, but rather develop their potential in skill-based career paths.
At the same time, businesses and educators should remove inferiority complex from their skill-based talent pool that their positions are a second choice compared with those who are within the academic-based education stream.
It has been far too long that the only path of career progression is laced with labels such as “General Manager”, “COO (chief operating officer)” or “CEO (chief executive officer)”.
Perhaps, terms such as “specialist” should deserve equal attention – as a recognition in a person who may not succeed through the traditional corporate leadership route, but as the best person in achieving a task due to the plethora of skills available within him or her.
Moving forward, it is high time for the government, academia and the industry to instill moral and institutional recognition to our youth based on their inherent abilities, be it academic or skill-based. Only then can we create a critical mass of talent that is not “motivated” by scrolls or certificates, but by passion and drive to excel in the fields of their choice.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Workers’ Day!
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Vital to recognise different talent dimensions

It goes without saying that the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) has reached our shores, demanding immediate adaptation and deployment to re-align the current and upcoming talent pool to fill positions within the industry that require quick access and capacity building to compete in the new era of connectivity.
The good news is – first, Industry 4.0 may be seen as an equaliser to global economy, as such disruptions to the way businesses of today are conducted will change, making the industrial revolution a problem not unique to any country, whether they are in advanced or developing stages.
Second and more importantly, our country has been responsive to adapting to changes – the National Policy for Industry 4.0 was a timely announcement and the applications and adoption of science and engineering within the society has been much debated in recent times.
At the core of any capacity building is the development of human talent. The underlying question, however, is the need to re-examine the way society perceives qualifications of talent to match one that is compliant and in line with Industry 4.0.
In a world where multi-disciplinary talent is ever more relevant, the recognition of different talent dimensions is important to ensure the workforce compositions are effective in implementing the appropriate Industry 4.0 strategies within businesses – be it management, creative, operational or administrative positions.
Furthermore, the emphasis of continuous learning – including opportunities to access it – becomes more and more pertinent. While in the olden days, new skills and learning were possible through raw experience alone, the rapid technology turnover rates seen today often create difficulty to acquire and adapt new skills, as access to technology infrastructure becomes scarce, due to budget or management constraints of individual businesses.
Herein, within the depths of hundreds of automotive and surrounding-sectors businesses, lie the strength of  thousands of talented Malaysians with strong foundations in science, engineering and technology that can be moulded further into the talent that will take Malaysia’s economic value to global heights.
The first step in this process is the MARii (Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute) Academy of Technology – previously called the MAI Resource Centre – located in Bukit Beruntung, Selangor.
It has been the central location for MARii’s Human Capital Development programmes – IPC (Industry Led Professional Certificate), AICE (Automotive Industry Certificate Engineering) and other plans developed specifically to enhance the capabilities of those entering and currently working within the entire breadth of the automotive sector.
To ate, more than forty thousand Malaysians have joined the workforce or enhanced their careers after graduating from human capital development programmes conducted through the MARii Academy – focusing on key aspects that allow them to possess the needed competencies to deliver in a competitive environment.
To accelerate the development of Industry 4.0 compliance within Malaysian talent, programmes specific to technology adoption within Industry 4.0 will be introduced soon.
New IPC (industrial PC) curricula in the Internet-of-things, and  smart Manufacturing and robotics will be introduced for those prone to take the skills career route.
At the same time, MARii is collaborating with Swinburne University of Technology to develop programmes for Advanced Diploma and Associate Degree in Industry 4.0.
Developed for university graduates and the current workforce, the programmes are structured within the working environment to deliver a continuous learning process based on real time experience, supplemented by practical training and solid concepts – based on learning principles in line withTechnical and Vocational Education and Training.
These programmes will equip graduates with strong and relevant technical knowledge and skills in additive manufacturing, smart manufacturing, process simulation, big data analytics and management, among others.
The MARii Academy of Technology will serve as an important centre in accelerating the adoption of technology from the human capital standpoint. Besides being a centre of knowlegde and skills, it is also be a place where learning is designed to be continous, relevant and in line with the current and future demands of the connected mobility sector.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)