Thursday, 14 November 2019

Creating mass opportunities

We all know the following services—Grab, Foodpanda, Lazada and Socar — and many others of their kind which deliver our needs at the touch of a finger.
At the core, these apps possess a key similarity. They are integrated with a menu or catalogue of services and products, and users can make a choice, commence the transaction and the need is delivered.
Traditionally, we would have made a call, or walked to the roadside to flag a taxi, driven to the restaurant to buy food, or gone to a shopping mall to browse and shop for items we need. The traditional retail process was also highly dependent on location, visibility and customer traffic.
The key takeaway here is that there is a significant change in the aspect of transportation, or rather, the mobility experience – and these services have created an evolution in the movement of the consumer in the processes of commerce.
The mobility aspect changes, in The National Automotive Policy, which will soon be announced, will look at this understanding and integration of MaaS into the domestic mobility industry. The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute. which it is either eliminated to enhance the service (or transferred to the business owner), or transformed to forego the need for the user to be part of the ownership of the mode of transportation for a need to be fulfilled (the vehicle).
This connectivity, which is combined with a “change of ownership” is the very fundamental of Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).
In a nutshell, MaaS integrates various transportation services — public and private — into a single, unified mobility service that can be accessed by anyone at any given time.
To spur businesses and jobs in MaaS, the first thing to address is the mindset towards more understanding of MaaS elements, and what it represents.
We must be mindful that MaaS is not an instant product, it is an evolving concept of mobility that introduces technology components in bits and pieces towards a larger jigsaw puzzle — slowly changing our lifestyle and behaviours, very often without us noticing its ubiquity.
For example, when the Grab app was introduced in 2012 — known as MyTeksi then — it was perceived purely as an application to hire taxis without going through the hassles we were accustomed to at the time. Little did we expect that it would change the way we commute, or for those who used it extensively, reduce the number of vehicles they owned.
Based on the same perception, the Foodpanda phenomenon changed the lunch lifestyle of many working adults by circumventing the need to leave the office and drive, find parking and argue over meal choices with colleagues.
Nowadays, many businesses have their own dedicated working pantries where employees can have more productive lunch hours with a multitude of different cuisines at their fingertips.
In both of the above cases, the technology did not reduce the sales volume of vehicles or food, but forced traditional businesses to become fluid and dynamic in their business models.
In fact, the introduction of technology during this phase of change was highly accessible to all business sizes and today it has become inherent in daily business operations.
It is this change in business models that makes up the greater philosophical component of MaaS. Therefore, the conceptual understanding by industry players and consumers is important to ensure our ecosystem is developed comprehensively as we move towards the future.
It is important that the application of connectivity, smart applications, data management, data analytics, knowledge systems, artificial intelligence and such advances to be integrated into the industry business model to ensure the relevance of our local players — at all levels — remain sustainable.
The National Automotive Policy, which will soon be announced, will look at this understanding and integration of MaaS into the domestic mobility industry.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Getting ready for next phase of mobility industry

There are many indicators to growth and they are not necessarily based on the revenue or volume figures that we are accustomed to. While the bottom line is still a priority, true growth is a journey and there are several milestones to pass through.
However, the voyage between milestones also matters — a bumpy ride can change the definition of a journey, even if the destination is reached. In the last half decade or so, the
automotive industry has shaped itself towards a stronger foundation. While sales volume may have had higher growth rates in the past, total sales to production ratios have narrowed its gap over the years, signalling a higher level of localised assembly across the board in both national and non-national operations within our borders.
Parts and components exports have more than doubled over the last half decade, and is expected to yet again achieve record levels by the end of this year. A higher degree of complete built-up exports were seen, signalling higher contribution of non-national exports, which previously was close to non-existent. Overall, the local automotive value chain has stronger linkages, and results are pointing towards a renewed strength through new measurable achievements.
However, a strong foundation is only an enabler to more success, it is not a guarantee of continued relevance. The remaining question is simple — are we ready for the next step? For me, readiness is not a solid state or position — but rather a fluid, dynamic proneness to respond as swiftly as possible. If we compare two stone pieces of equal weight, a polished round shape is much easier to push when compared to one with a jagged, uneven surface. In a world where technology and trends can be rendered obsolete overnight, industry readiness is measured based on its ability to adapt quickly, not only its current performance based on singular indicators.
The current National Automotive Policy (NAP) focused first and foremost on a change of mindset—balancing current economic needs,future business thinking and social upward mobility.
The new and enhanced NAP is going through its final phases before it will be announced in the very near future, encompassing technology direction and business strategies in next-generation vehicles, mobility as a service and Industry 4.0 compliance.
Several technology road-maps will also be developed specifically to industry adoption and penetration of technologies surrounding the connected mobility sector. If we take a look at this year’s motor shows in Geneva, Frankfurt or Tokyo, the overall sentiment from car-makers was the sudden leap of faith from conventional transportation to connected mobility,a stark contrast in temperature for electrification and autonomous technology, if compared to previous editions.
For a developing market like Malaysia, such leaps of faith are often tough to make, and it is the government’s role in pacifying anxieties and hesitation — placing the safety wheels as we embark on the next phase of the mobility industry. The industry can expect a higher degree of enhancement opportunities in developing capabilities in smarter vehicles, components and systems, as well as the utilization advanced materials,processes and data-driven decision making.
New business models in both manufacturing and services sectors will emerge, and meaningful participation of local players will be encouraged. The natural impact of the policy implementation can be expected — smarter and safer vehicles, mobility services, high value job opportunities and improved after-sales service for Malaysians.
In conclusion,the answer to the question of our readiness is also simple. With the opportunities and ecosystem we have built, we are fortunate that we can see the gap we must jump across. All we need is to do is get ready to jump.
“Luck is merely when preparation meets opportunity.”
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Need for long-term foresight

The adage “Rome was not built in a day” is philosophically accurate with respect to the situation we are in at any given time – they are often symptoms that emerge long after a decision was made in a distant past.
The United States automotive industry crisis between 2008 and 2010 is a good case study for this, in which the American Big Three – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – focused primarily on high-margin sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks, despite a looming energy crisis around the same time.
As the demand for energy-efficient models increased, sales of the Big Three models went down, reaching a critical point as the 2008 financial crises hit the market.
It is also said that economies revolve around cycles – they move from prosperity to recession due to factors often difficult to pre-empt.
However, the defining point in an economy is not how it is performs at a given time, but rather how it develops strength and resilience to survive the lows and shine bright during the highs.
In Malaysia’s case, we have developed the same resilience over time, surviving several recessions and keeping abreast of global developments through sound industrialisation policies formulated at the end of the last century.
As a nation, we have come a long way from our roots as a former colony, with agriculture and raw materials as our sole source of income.
For the last three to four decades, we have ventured into numerous high value sectors, including the automotive industry that has bred full-fledged local car makers capable of designing and developing vehicles from scratch, and the large ecosystem of vendors, dealerships and service centres to cater to the growing tech-economy.
Our industrial foundation has prepared itself for higher level capabilities through strategically placed infrastructure and a technologically diverse talent pool.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels and assume the same ways will bear the same results forever.
Despite our industrial foundation and resilience, there has been an unfortunate stagnation in our economic levels – seen through indicators such as the weakened currency, budget deficit, and slower income growth – in the last half-decade.
The lesson taken here is the foresight needed to ensure that the long term policies developed are sensitive to emerging global trends, often discussed at length in this column.
The good news is that there have been many policies that have been announced to address the nation’s competitiveness as we move into the next decade.
New directions developed through national policies on transportation, entrepreneurship and digital content have been formulated stemming from the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 to encompass a holistic and cross-functional approach as the world moves towards a multi-disciplined and connected economic ecosystem.
The International Trade and Industry Ministry’s National Policy on Industry 4.0 -Industry4WRD – has entered its second year and aims to address the adoption of technology in the manufacturing sector for businesses.
The policy will be implemented further through new programmes, including the newly-announced MARii Industry4WRD Technology Platform (MITP), adding to the Readiness Assessment and Intervention programmes launched last year.
The same long-term philosophies of encouraging meaningful participation of local players in the digital economy will be part and parcel of the new National Automotive Policy, that will be reviewed by the cabinet soon, as announced by Minister Datuk Darell Leiking yesterday.
The automotive sector will continue to spur the utilisation of technology and allow participation of Malaysians in the digital economy, in areas such as Next Generation Vehicles, Mobility as a Service and advanced manufacturing, in line with Industry4WRD.
The development of these technologies would create direct spin-off and utilisation to enhance other sectors outside the automotive and mobility industry.
Other frameworks and directions will be announced by the ministry soon, including a policy on remanufacturing across various sectors following the growth of exports of remanufacturing of automotive components over the past three years.
It is then key to future-proof the employment and business ecosystem to ensure the sustainability and relevance of our economy to the global markets.
Policies for middle and lower income groups, educational reform, wealth distribution among states, genders and ethnicities are all areas to address—with the goal to ensure overall prosperity in the global digital economy.
Most importantly, the policies require deeper implementation to maximise its effectiveness and time to demonstrate results.
After all, they are long-term policies that require careful formulation, calculated implementation and widespread participation from all segments of our society.

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

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Step up development of SMEs, the unsung heroes

THE success and failure of an economy is often romanticised by the global brands that it creates — Apple of the United States, Shell of Europe, Toyota of Japan and the Samsung of South Korea.
However, the unsung heroes of any thriving global economic powerhouse are the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that often form the biggest chunk of the economy.
In most countries, SMEs form a round 90 percent of the population of companies. In Malaysia, the figure stands at around 98 per cent.
The SME economy is important for a few reasons. Firstly, they form the backbone of the value chain that supports larger corporations. Secondly, they provide the playing field for creativity, innovation and business potential.
Out of the 900,000 SMEs registered in Malaysia, more than three quarters are micro businesses while only two per cent form medium enterprises.
In 2016, SMEs contributed 36.6 per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product.
It is important that SMEs are given the attention and development space. They must also adopt new technology to stay relevant and competitive.
The Malaysian economy is highly diversified, which includes deep rooted cultural heritage that has spurred cottage industries like the manufacturing of batik, silk and handicrafts.
While there is local sentiment to preserve the cottage industries, it also has export potential.
The model to ensure the sustainability of our cottage industries needs to be updated. To stay relevant, value-added activities must be added to promote the products and improve quality.
Marketing, sales, accounting, training and crafting can be improved through the usage of new technologies, made possible by automation, cloud-based technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Many technologies have been created for use in the automotive industry, as discussed extensively in this column. They include IoT based enterprise planning and accounting software, camera vision, or broad-based financial technology software — all with immediate spin off for the utility of other sectors.
The barriers in spurring international market awareness and exportability of such products can be reduced as technology adoption becomes more affordable, particular for the SMEs
It is for this reason that the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute launched the Technopreneur Development Programme (TDP) last week, in conjunction with the Malaysia Autoshow 2019 Sabah.
The TDP is structured to provide SMEs with the requisite knowledge and digital tools to enhance business operations, with the end goal of establishing an ecosystem revolving technology, that is fully utilised by SMEs on a shared common platform and engineered by MARii and its partners
The pilot programme, starting with 10 companies within the cottage industry in Sabah, was developed in partnership with Fintech Lab to allow SME business owners to reduce administrative burdens through the adoption of applicable technology, increasing value-added activities that can enhancing company operations
In the future, more companies will join the TDP, covering more sectors and areas as a spin off from technology applications within the automotive and overall mobility industry.
While there are numerous efforts from many parties to enhance the SME sector, these spinoffs are ready to be applied and adopted for SMEs to enhance their productivity, quality, and exportability of our rich heritage.

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

Thursday, 17 October 2019

2020 Budget from technological standpoint

THE 2020 Budget was perhaps one of the most important tests for the government—it was tabled as Malaysia was finding its new definition on the global stage.
The main challenge was to balance the bread-and-butter issues and the allocation for efforts to elevate Malaysians from the income traps they are in.
On top of that, the pressures of rapid global innovation forced some out-of-the-box thinking. The technologist in me will of course look at the 2020 Budget from a technological standpoint.
The first step in accelerating progress is to address the structure at the bottom of the economic ladder.
For me, the advances in this budget are primarily the apparent shifts seen in administrative mindset — which in all honestly, boldly challenges norms and current sentiment in order to do the necessary.
Firstly, the fuel subsidy rationalisation took a rather big change as reallocation was provided to the B40 (Bottom 40 per cent household group), who needs it the most.
This is perhaps a significant paradigm shift for a country that is used to subsidies.
However, perhaps it is time we ease into the idea of fuel efficiency — after all, public transportation in the Klang Valley is going through a major transformation, and fuel efficiency has been a key agenda for more than half a decade now.
However, while the austerity debate goes on, a highly applaudable allocation is a continued increase of allocation for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which stand at RM5.9 billion.
The increased allocation adds a new dimension to social upward mobility as the human capital development aspect is essential for a sustainable techno logical ecosystem and runs hand-in hand with financial considerations towards the adoption of smart automation within the industry and reduce our dependence on foreign labour.
Most importantly, the cliche is true — an investment in education is an investment in the future. Today, education and skills are viable routes to help Malaysians climb the socio-economic ladder.
Next, which I believe deserved more attention, is the allocation for technological advancements among Malaysian businesses.
It is the right step in spurring smart manufacturing, particularly in incentivising the adoption of automation technology to boost productivity and quality.
The announced extension for Accelerated Capital Allowances (ACA) as well as matching grants for 2,000 manufacturing and services companies is a welcome move — particularly as investment decisions in automation are a key consideration for businesses, especially small and medium enterprises within the automotive and mobility sectors.
Since the National Policy on Industry 4.0 (Industry4WRD) was announced last year, the International Trade and Industry Ministry has held numerous programmes to help local companies embrace automation through the development of technology strategies in their business plans.
The 2020 Budget would definitely make this adoption process easier as financial barriers can be lowered.
More importantly, it boosts business confidence in automation investments as the budget demonstrates the government’s stronger commitment to developing Industry 4.0 technology within the local ecosystem.
Overall, I feel the 2020 Budget is a realistic, yet forward-looking budget that is in line with the common senses of technological progress.
While it looks at key opportunities of economic progression through adoption of technology, it also addresses basic access to livelihood — after all, nobody thinks about progress if they are busy searching for basic necessities.
As we enter the final quarter of this decade, our mindsets have changed — Malaysians are now debating progressive issues that move us forward and starting to leave pure sentiment behind.
This budget laid the specifics to achieve such progress.

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

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Importance of training, ‘ecosystem of excellence’

IN order to develop highly skilled, productive teams, the prescribed approach is the training of talents.
However, while the quality of training is incumbent on the quality of the trainer and modules, there is an important factor that determines the speed of learning — the ecosystem one is exposed to.
In sports, for example, it is common to see continued dominance of certain teams or countries. They continue to be the best and produce the best players. It is a tremendous advantage when you train on a daily basis with the best players.
This “ecosystem of excellence”, can be observed in daily development as well. For example, language skill is best developed in an environment where it is spoken correctly.
Careers are enhanced with highly-competitive and capable managers, peers and mentors. Businesses thrive when they have a competitive ecosystem of strong customers, suppliers, partners and a healthy supply of talents around them.
It’s true that practice makes perfect, but we have to practise things correctly, otherwise our practice will perfect a wrong method.
Last week, the government announced the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030), to develop a holistic, all-inclusive economic ecosystem for Malaysia across all walks of society in high value, equitable distribution of prosperity and wealth. Seven strategic thrusts were introduced and the framework of SPV 2030 will be implemented in the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan.
In a nutshell, the seven thrusts envision the framework for a fair and shared prosperity for Malaysians with key focus on higher participation of small and medium enterprises and micro businesses, and more technology penetration among manufacturing and services subsectors. This is followed by increased participation in key economic growth activities, human capital development, fair labour markets, social wellbeing, regional inclusion and social capital.
In this regard, the ecosystem of excellence comes into play. There needs to be a core economic activity, common to all, to ensure concepts are practised with space allowed to learn through the building of experience.
Remember, right talent and experience are important to ensure social upward mobility is created for more people.
The right experience trickles down through economic vehicles that grant access to meaningful participation in high-technology economy. This is where the mobility sector comes in as one of the providers of high-value ecosystem. While it may have relatively higher barriers of entry, they are no longer an issue of capital investment, but rather talent, experience and a touch of boldness to brave the future of high technology.
When the automotive sector was established around three decades ago, it created a higher value among local companies. While we had presswork factories, injection moulding and other basic manufacturers, they were limited to low tech and basic products that did not possess the demand and rigour of auto parts and components of the same base material.
Automotive products not only require precision in design and tooling, but must undergo severe test requirements before they can be approved for mass production. This demand elevated local businesses to a higher technical standard, breaking their glass ceiling in a way that was not possible if we were to stick to manufacturing conventional products.
Furthermore, a high-value ecosystem serves as a platform to boost those at the bottom of the social ladder. The growth of the industry creates openings to start new careers.
While they may start at the bottom, the depth of the automotive industry provides career paths that build experience, skills and most importantly, human capital value.
I have seen this first hand in the careers of numerous Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute’s Industry Led Professional Certificate graduates, who started as school leavers but now have strong skill-based careers.
They received national skills certification after gaining experience in automotive manufacturing and after-sales operations.
In conclusion, the mobility sector creates new opportunities for industry players seeking to break the glass ceiling of technological development.
The challenge of developing equitable prosperity and shared wealth begins with challenging our reservations and venturing into sectors that can only succeed through shared goals.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Connectivity forms foundation for mobility

JUST this week, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission announced the rollout of 5G demonstration projects to expedite the deployment of 5G connectivity in various industries.
The rollout will feature use cases for numerous technologies, such as smart traffic lights, smart parking, remote diagnosis, medical tourism, remote medical consultation, smart agriculture, augmented reality for education, and vehicle tracking.
While 5G connectivity translates to faster Internet connection and download speeds, the key takeaway for the next generation of mobile communication lies in lower latency or in simple terms, a significant reduction of the amount of delay to send information over the mobile connection.
The reduction in latency is a key requirement in vehicle connectivity as real-time decisions when a car is in motion must be performed in fractions of a second — it paves the way for the development of next generation vehicles, which will eventually lead to complete vehicle autonomy.
While experts say Level 5 autonomy is still a decade or so away, when this point of no return eventually arrives, the infrastructure and availability of connectivity will be non-negotiable.
For a nation with the aspirations of being part of the producers’ pool in the future technology markets, this places the mapping of technology development at a high priority at both business and policy levels.
Today, it is apparent that connectivity has changed our lifestyles, which started with the increased flexibility and connection speeds on our mobile phones. Mobility-based services, such as food delivery and ride sharing, have become a norm for many walks of life.
In fact, the emergence of national level discussions surrounding these issues shows the level of penetration and dependence on new connective technologies and significant awareness among Malaysians.
Although there are issues to address and room for more improvements, the fact that national attention has been given to these services means that the landscape for mobility as a service is changing rapidly in the country.
The demand for more connectivity is starting to gain traction in the automotive sector as well. For example, many drivers are now bypassing their built-in infotainment equipment and connecting their services directly to their phones, using applications such as GPS navigation, music libraries and audio book readers directly from the Internet.
Many vehicle makers are introducing new built-in infotainment models that cater to this at the point of sales, making vehicle connectivity an almost seamless experience. New vehicles in the premium market have also introduced more connective features in the vehicle packages they offer.
However, the establishment of the connectivity ecosystem is not only about telecommunications and app development. It involves a myriad of technologies that support the entire sector, including cybersecurity, fleet management systems, traffic management, e-calls and payment systems.
They require the current critical mass we have developed in fields such as mechanical, electronics, manufacturing and chemical engineering, as well as new experts and business support in new fields that expand the utilisation and application of such technologies.
These sub-sectors form the basis to ensure a healthy connectivity ecosystem and form the space and grounds for opportunities in new jobs and talent to flourish and develop.
To this end, the government is working hand-in-hand with industry and academia to develop a comprehensive vision map towards the involvement of local talent and business in the new mobility ecosystem as we move closer to finalising the revision of the National Automotive Policy.
It is hoped that these new dimensions will go beyond a paradigm shift for the automotive and mobility sector and spin off to other industries—sectors that must also shift towards relevance in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in order for a mobility ecosystem to be complete.
The future begins with advanced connectivity, and we cannot afford “latency” in responding to new trends.

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

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Emerging IoT tech to support NxGV ecosystem

AS mentioned substantially in this column, the most important aspect to build a hub for next generation vehicles (NxGVs) is the development of its surrounding ecosystem.
We have learnt that an automotive industry—which will evolve into the mobility industry in the near future — is not about vehicle assembly, but also about the industry generated to support the vehicle assemblers.
These include parts and components manufacturers, tool makers, machine builders, after sales and service, even marketing and educational institutions.
It is for this reason, we are looking at the development of the automotive industry holistically.
While local car manufacturers have shown tremendous progress in the highly competitive global and regional markets, exports of parts and components have almost tripled in the past five years.
The number of highly skilled engineers and designers have increased and while it may not have received extensive coverage, we are exporting our design and engineering services to countries that require their talent.
This column had highlighted that as we move into future mobility, business activities were no longer limited to plastic, metal and other conventional components and materials.
The complexity of vehicles will turn our future transportation into living cabins — a high technology mobile phone on wheels or a new living and working space that changes our commute through the advent of faster connectivity, increased vehicle intelligence and autonomous technology.
The ecosystem surrounding vehicle manufacturers will also expand in its scope.
Businesses in areas such as big data analysis and management, cloud computing, drone technology, artificial intelligence, smart commerce, e-learning and others are now part of the expanding mobility sector.
Since the Malaysia Automotive Institute was rebranded to Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) and given new mandates in December last year, it has seen the ecosystem for new technologies grow ing slowly.
Many of the companies were featured at the Malaysia Autoshow 2019.
Some of the technologies featured included smart homes, workshop management systems, telematics command centres, and augmented reality application in vehicle repair and training.
MARii had also published numerous articles, videos and events covering businesses that add technology value to their products and services, including aftersales commerce applications, vehicle engine control unit (ECU) tuning, and IoT hardware and software development.
The uptake of new businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in next generation vehicle technology is encouraging, and we hope to meet and develop relationships with companies in more areas of specialisation in the future.
In the meantime, the transition into capabilities in next generation vehicles, mobility-as-a-service and manufacturing technology associated with the above products and services will be a primary focus for the government in the near future.
The development is not limited to new businesses, but also existing businesses that can take advantage of their current expertise in vehicle and component production into the next era of advanced mobility.
As we draw closer to finalising the new National Automotive Policy the transition into future mobility models is highly achievable and if the government, industry and stakeholders renew their focus on the correct technology adoption, reskilling of talent, and de-conventionalise their business approach.
We have the potential to emerge as a prime mover in next generation vehicle technology.

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

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Malaysia needs to embrace NxGVs to stay relevant

AROUND 20,000 demonstrators descended on the first public day of the Frankfurt Motor Show, calling for the automotive industry to prioritise zero and low-carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy in transportation.
While the sustainable development debate is not this article’s main point of contention, it brings forth the realisation that sentiment against fossil fuels is on the rise.
In countries where fuel is imported and subsidies are not given, the costs and consumption of energy is a concern.
Reports showed an exponential increase in the global fossil fuel consumption between 1950 to 2000, from 20,138 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 94,462TWh.
This takes into account the use of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. In 2017, it rose to 133,853TWh, an increase of 40 per cent in about half the time.
Global carmakers responded at this year’s IAA, which saw a significant increase in the number of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles (EVs).
Major carmakers accepted consumers wanted more low emission mobility products at this year’s show compared with the previous editions.
It is clear that Malaysia’s automotive industry has to respond to the demands of the global market if we are to stay relevant. The next phase for us would be a higher focus on Next-Generation Vehicles (NxGVs).
In a nutshell, NxGVs are a combination of energy-efficient-vehicles (EEVs) with new driving technology that would move towards full vehicle autonomy (Level 5).
The development would concentrate on two major areas, namely the evolution of powertrain technology and also technology in-vehicle communication, fuel economy, autonomous driving and other technology that can be applied along the road towards full vehicle autonomy.
In relation to powertrain technology, one of the major challenges in introducing alternative powertrains is our high dependence on fossil fuels.
Further complications arise when efforts in balancing fuel subsidies and public incentivisation of fuel saving measures are met with socio-political pressure, with little room for dialogue.
In countries where electro-mobility is more widely accepted, the idea of fuel subsidies does not come into question, making it easier for fuel-efficient options to be more acceptable despite its higher costs, compared to traditional vehicles.
While, fuel pricing and costs of living are interlinked, the culture of fuel consumption should be discussed beyond maintaining blanket perceptions regarding the fixing of prices.
This way forward lies partly in the introduction of energy-efficient technologies to local market in order to develop trust in electro-mobility products, and also prepare local companies for export readiness.
The development is not restricted to vehicle manufacturers, but also parts and components and after-sales solutions sectors in the form of exportable aftersales products and services.
To stay relevant, the path ahead is clear. The management of energy consumption and the development of home-grown business and talent at vehicle, component and services levels must be a priority for the government, industry and the public at large.

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

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Readiness is more a state of mind

MORE often than not, stories of healthy progress are easier to find than we think.
In a world where social media has pushed us into a state of information overload, it is easy to sift through headlines that may create a dent in our spirits.
In recent times, there are numerous milestones that will pave the path to a future steeped in technology adoption and opportunities for Malaysians.
Proton is showing a comeback through its recent spell in its increasing market share, with more 3S and 4S centres opening nationwide and a keen eye on export targets.
Perodua on the other hand has strengthened its in-house design capabilities, bringing advanced technology to the entry level market that was previously reserved for mid-range and premium vehicles— setting a new standard of automotive safety for all Malaysians.
Speaking of safety, Malaysian- made vehicles continuously received high safety ratings despite being the most affordable in the region.
Our parts and components suppliers have also done a tremendous job over the past few years. Exports of vehicle parts & components have risen from RM4.7 billion in 2014 to RM12.1 billion last year, and looks set to surpass the RM13 billion mark by this year-end.
More than 50 per cent of vendors have achieved a supply chain level 3 status, capable of lean production and efficient operations. Close to a third of them are capable of in-house design.
Additionally, remanufactured parts and components recorded an export figure of RM523.1 million last year.
More Malaysians are part of the automotive sector today, which has created around a quarter million new jobs in the last five years, with a quarter of the figure last year alone.
Last year, 62 per cent of the cars registered on the road were energy efficient vehicles (EEVs), signifying that many Malaysian car owners are keen on energy efficiency.
The obvious question is: are we ready for the next step. However, we need to know what are we preparing for?
When Vision 2020 was announced close to three decades ago, its first line envisioned Malaysia as an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.
One of the key challenges in the vision was the challenge of establishing a scientific and progressive society, a society that is innovative and forward-looking, one that is not only a consumer of technology but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilisation of the future.
While it is important that we build the economies of scale needed for a thriving automotive sector, it is important to remain true to our goals to develop technological capital, which lies in the development of Malaysian careers and businesses in advanced technology.
We saw strong buildup to the introduction of 5G connectivity, bringing in faster Internet connectivity, which more importantly has a lower latency to form the foundations for the connected vehicle-to-everything communication.
A Malaysian firm, eMoovit, showcased a prototype for an autonomous vehicle, the second time we have come across local talent in autonomous transportation since the REKA self-driving car was showcased at the Malaysia Autoshow last year.
Overall, readiness for the next step does not always depend on what we have achieved alone.
The ability to believe that one is ready pays higher dividends, and the examples shown above were not done by people who said they were ready, but were ready to set an example of reaching higher levels of achievement.

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

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Alternative path to success for Malaysian youth

WHILE we have all heard of the phrase “success is a journey, not a destination”, this journey is not equal for everyone.
A smooth journey towards success depends highly on the vehicle and route taken. We each have access to different routes and vehicle modes.
Besides, not everyone is given the luxury of choice to be a driver or a passenger.
A person’s ability to succeed is highly dependent on his or her surrounding, upbringing and access to opportunities.
Education, information and circles of influence have the ability to shape a child’s ability in the future, or even their performance in school.
Therefore, it is key that name callings such as “failures” or “hopelessness” not be placed on children based on their performances in the early stages of their life.
After all, they have a long way ahead and it would be futile to give up hope on them at such an early phase.
It is important that efforts are made not only to reduce such inequality, but also create avenues that pave the way for alternative forms of success through different routes. The advent of technology has added urgency the recognition of unequal access to opportunities.
This week, the Malaysia Auto- motive Robotics and IoT Institute launched the Youth Forward programme, with more than 200 upper secondary school students from Sabah taking part in its pilot project, as an alternative path towards success.
The programme, organised and coordinated by MARii, is an alternative for secondary school students to be away from academically-oriented education routes.
Through the programme, the students will be trained in various skill-based modules to be part of the nation’s skilled workforce in various sectors.
Participants of the initiative will undergo 30 sessions over four months, followed by practical training that will be conducted for five months where they will be placed in various industries.
The sessions would cover numerous aspects to provide intensive exposure to life skills, time management, safety in the home and vehicle, communication skills enhancement, public speaking, financial management and other life skills.
Modules relevant to their technological future would also be conducted, such as Introduction to Industry 4.0, basic robotics and coding.
The students will undergo a five-month practical training in various industries to expose themselves to cultures and practices of working life.
The programme is an important milestone in our effort to provide opportunities to all, including our youth.
In order to access these opportunities, we believe there should be a wide range of modules to cater to different backgrounds and exposure levels.
The Youth Forward programme is yet another access point towards success through the skill route.
It will be soon be extended throughout the country, ensuring our children receive the early exposure they deserve, based on their own strengths.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect in a child’s upbringing is positive reinforcement of their strengths.
Although nobody is perfect, it is important we work on perfecting the things they do best In future, it is their specialisation that makes them relevant to the value chain of global markets.
This week, more than 400,000 students in Primary 6 would begin their first educational hurdle in the UPSR exams.
While this is a major test for those ending their primary education, I understand it is equally nerve wrecking for the parents and teachers.
Irrespective of the outcome, the results are not an indicator of their future, but more importantly an indicator of the routes to be taken towards success.
Success does not lie in a piece of paper that inks their passes or failures, but in their ability to convert their abilities into meaningful gestures that benefit their families, their communities and the nation.

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

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Opportunities, considerations in new mobility models

JUST like how the Internet has changed snail mail to email and Internet-based messaging such as Whatsapp has replaced short-message-service (SMS) as technology, market forces determine our relevance and have the power to change the conventional labels.
When transportation is connected to the Internet, new business models are created and begin to break into the market. They offer unique and niche solutions to specific problems that we didn’t realise were problems before.
Today, new types of ride-hailing services are constantly introduced to the Malaysian market, with niche solutions emerging to challenge norms of the automotive, transportation and mobility sectors.
This column has discussed in depth transformation of the automotive sector into the mobility sector, in which mobility-as-a service would be at the core of the evolution.
The recent discussion on the introduction of motorcycle based ride hailing was met with both support and criticism.
While the main intention was to offer more choices for the end users, and create new job and business opportunities, many argued that safety and socio-economic concerns must be addressed.
Thus, we must set aside our prejudice and dissect this issue with the appropriate nuance on the issues at hand.
It is worthy noting that some facts are important in forming a basis for our opinion on the matter.
Firstly, it has been made clear that this is not a monopoly, but it is open to both local and international players.
Secondly, the use of motorcycles for Internet-based commerce has gained popularity in Malaysia for a while now, and the issue at hand is — should we extend this service to ferry commuters, instead of only goods and other services?
Concerns of safety, security and “social decorum” create new opportunities themselves, thus providing secondary job and business opportunities that address those problems.
While safety of passengers has been a top concern, it opens the way for discussion towards better safety regulations and the introduction of technologies that have been long overdue to improve the two-wheeler safety, such as ABS braking, blind spot detection or even road maintenance standards.
Concern for the safety of female passengers is not limited to motorcycles, but also in car based ride hailing. Viewed positively, it creates new niche markets for “female-friendly” ridesharing services.
Most importantly, it adds a new range and dimension to the existing choices in public transportation, particularly last mile connectivity.
While the government and private sector can easily build the main network lines for rail and bus transportation infrastructure, ride-hailing caters to the intricacies of last mile connectivity to different localities, terrains or urban configurations.
The immediate consequence is that as motorcycle usage rises, so would the number of casualties, if an increase in road safety awareness among Malaysian riders is not implemented.
While we should not make blanket statements about all motorists, the general view among Malaysians is that driver’s attitude is not at an ideal point. More needs to be done to curb dangerous behaviour on our roads.
Most importantly, it is a serious issue that must be tackled not just for the introduction of different ride-hailing options, but also to ensure more connected mobility services are introduced globally.
If we look at countries within Asean that have achieved a significant penetration of motorcycle ride hailing — Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia — they are all within the top 15 countries with the highest motorcycle fatalities.
In Malaysia’s case, let’s look at the overall picture — with or without the introduction of new transportation and mobility models, the issue of road safety must be a top priority for the nation. Otherwise, global trends will leave us behind.

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

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Staying relevant through technology adoption

ONE of the key milestones the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) has reached this year is the establishment of capacity-building programmes and events that expand beyond the automotive industry into the fields of advanced manufacturing and the Internet of Things.
As we rebrand from the Malaysia Automotive Institute, our scope of work is primarily about shifting our fundamentals to the adoption of automation and connectivity in our daily lives and business operations.
Apart from the intervention programmes for mobility-related business and to enhance capabilities and capacities in automation and “IoT-isation”, the foundation begins with creating awareness levels for the adoption of technology — not just awareness of the availability of technology, but also its accessibility to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as entry level workforce.
To ensure that Industry 4.0 is implemented successfully, our target group includes SMEs.
There are more than 900 thousand SMEs in Malaysia, or 98.5 per cent of the Malaysian economy, contributing 37 per cent to the gross domestic product of the nation.
Some 5.3 per cent of the SMEs are in the manufacturing sector and 89.2 per cent in the services sector. Only 34.5 per cent of the businesses are located in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
We have to be mindful that as technology advances, the lines of manufacturing and services would become blury.
There were many examples illustrated in this column, one of which is the evolution of the automotive manufacturing sector into Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
It indicates that manufacturing and services would converge hand in hand with business models changing as we progress further.
When it comes to the adoption of advanced technologies, not only the 900,000 business owners must gain awareness of technologies, but they must also be willing to accept that a transition towards Industry 4.0 would be unavoidable in the near future.
The implementation must spread to all corners of the nation to ensure the local market stays relevant to global trends.
Businesses must understand that technological implementation is not as daunting as it seems as the true technological breakthrough seen today lies in the ease of use and built-in adaptability factor.
If you can operate a vehicle or a smartphone, it is enough to build technology into your business operations.
When the thinking of top business levels shift, those working within the business would also shift their thinking.
If the majority of SMEs move towards Industry 4.0, it would be the first — yet major — step towards transforming the economy into higher value and income.
The main and true purpose in maintaining relevance of our capabilities is to stop depending on others.
However, the dependence is not equal to inter-dependence.
Inter-dependence refers to our ability to contribute equally to a market of ideas, products, technology and services.
Dependence means an over-reliance on the capabilities, on technological commodities of others and becoming pure consumers instead of creators and innovators.
While it is natural for technology to replace jobs, they are not meant to replace humans.
We have to stay relevant, adapt to new jobs and businesses created through the advancement in technology and enrich our lives by increasing the valuation of our contribution to the global market.
Staying relevant is at the core of the numerous capacity building, training and awareness programmes developed and implemented by MARii.
For those intending to begin their technological journey, get in touch with me or my team.
For those who have graduated through our modules, more advanced programmes are being developed and will be announced soon to enable and unlock more opportunities for Malaysian businesses and talents.

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