• Madani Sahari

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.

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