The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and local manufacturing software company Arcstone have opened a joint laboratory at A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) to develop smart manufacturing solutions to help businesses speed up digital transformation to make operations more efficient, effective, and sustainable. Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong graced the joint lab’s opening.
This era of Industry 4.0 allows for real-time extraction and monitoring of operational data, as well as the ability to control machines digitally and remotely. Today’s manufacturing execution systems (MES) face limits, however, such as in the optimisation of production processes. Against this backdrop, A*STAR and Arcstone will collaborate to give today’s MES added intelligence.
With a total investment of S$18 million over three years, the A*STAR-Arcstone joint lab will transform Arcstone’s existing solutions into a next-generation MES suite. The MES will incorporate technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to help manufacturers make better decisions – through visualisation, control, optimisation, and sustainability.
For example, the MES will not only provide information about what is happening in a production process in real time but also recommend ways to improve that process, such as by optimising production scheduling.
Manufacturers, including local SMEs, will be able to tap on these smart manufacturing solutions to increase manufacturing transparency and improve production scheduling across the supply chain, paving the way for more competitive and robust supply chains.
The solutions will also help manufacturers go green by enabling them to optimise energy usage. The joint lab will place special emphasis on the user-interface for the MES, making it easy to configure and use, especially for first-timers.
The joint lab will work on projects in the following areas:
a. Improve production through real-time visibility
- Develop a computer vision system to track production in real time using deep learning
- Create a gamification platform to make production processes more visible, more productive, and of higher quality
b. Control production using IIoT technologies
- Develop a toolset to enable MES to control machines through a drag-and-drop interface
- Create a plug-and-play digital platform that integrates machine sensors with MES
c. Optimise production using simulation and artificial intelligence
- Build a live digital twin model for factories using real-time simulation and machine learning
- Create a self-learning algorithm to optimise production scheduling across supply chain
d. Make production greener through data and optimisation
- Create an open platform for integrated product life cycle assessment
- Develop a platform to optimise energy use
- Design a metric to measure sustainability of products across supply chain
Collaborating with A*STAR will help Arcstone halve the time needed for its own R&D to achieve its goals. The joint lab aims to create about 30 engineering jobs over the next three years.
Two A*STAR units are involved in the joint lab: ARTC, which will contribute capabilities in advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technologies, and the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), which will contribute expertise in areas such as computational modelling, simulation, and artificial intelligence.
Arcstone works with companies from industries ranging from precision engineering to fast-moving consumer goods. Arcstone has been a member of the ARTC consortium since 2016, and has tripled its customer base and sales revenue since then.
“The challenging economic environment sends a reminder to many companies of the constant need for innovation to stay competitive. At A*STAR, we collaborate with companies such as Arcstone to help them build new capabilities to move up the value chain,” said Professor Alfred Huan, Assistant Chief Executive, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR.
“Such public-private partnerships continue to play an important role in encouraging businesses to adopt technologies to differentiate themselves from the competition. This collaboration with Arcstone is also an example of how local SMEs can deploy their new solutions to help other local SMEs speed up digital transformation in their factories, driving increased digitalisation across the board,” added Professor Huan.
“Our goal with the joint lab is to rapidly produce cutting-edge technology to give SMEs and global manufacturers a leg up in efficiency, productivity, and most importantly, long-term sustainability and environmental competitiveness,” said Willson Deng, CEO, Arcstone.
“We are confident about achieving this goal, for we have in ARTC a trusted R&D partner that will bring us results – we know this from years of collaboration with ARTC’s scientists and engineers,” added Deng.
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