Jackie Chang of Delta Electronics speaks about the trends shaping the industrial automation industry, and strategies to adopt as manufacturers move toward smarter manufacturing. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Delta Electronics is one of the leading companies for power management and industrial automation worldwide. Established in 1971, the Taipei, Taiwan-based company started from the electronics side of power management, before transforming into having more industrial automation and infrastructure solutions.
Power electronics is still one of the key products of Delta, accounting for more than 50 percent of production. The majority of its systems and solutions are all manufactured in-house – a basic difference compared with other system solution providers in the industry, which mostly outsource many of their components and subsystems. For Delta, whether it’s building automation, industrial automation, software, system management – everything is manufactured in-house, even the projectors and the portable adapters.
Jackie Chang, Vice President of Delta Electronics Southeast Asia and India, speaks with Industrial Automation Asia during the recent Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP) 2019 event in Singapore, about the trends shaping the industrial automation industry, and strategies to adopt as manufacturers move toward smarter manufacturing.
What trends are you seeing right now in your industry, and how are these impacting the industrial automation environment?
Jackie Chang (JC): The world is changing. From the megatrends and the overall market dynamics, we think we need to have more contributions to this changing environment. Many are talking about factories and machine automation, even process automation – that is one of our key focus. Of course, there’s also building automation and smart cities, and then on the infrastructure side of it – we are talking about data, connectivity, these are all very important for us. On the energy side, infrastructure is important for energy management. As is renewable energy.
In the future, the industry will be talking more about vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-home – these topics are towards the e-mobility trend. Delta is also developing a series of products to fulfil these requirements.
My role is tied to further developing our Southeast Asia market. Previously, I was in Europe for 23 years – eight years in the UK and 15 years in The Netherlands. In Europe, they are quite advanced in these areas, whether in automation or infrastructure. We would like to leverage the experiences we have to set up the necessary infrastructure and develop our Southeast Asia market. This will help our customers towards their journey to automation. Of course, Delta is already established in Southeast Asia for quite some time now; but I think, we can further enhance our knowledge and connections, to make our positioning even better.
What are the greatest challenges that your customers usually face?
JC: Nowadays, everybody is talking about Industry 4.0. But, how do they really start? Where should they put their effort into? I think a lot of people are still a little bit puzzled about it.
Taking Delta as an example, the challenges we faced included labour shortages and a very unstable labour environment – it’s always a big concern for us. So, internally, we started a smart manufacturing programme about 10 years ago where we determined the best fit for machine-to-machine and machine-to-people. Among our key issues are – how to ensure better utilization of the workforce while increasing production output and quality.
Through all these efforts and different experimentations internally, we were able to develop practical steps and strategies toward smarter manufacturing. Because if you are just trying to adopt Industry 4.0 only for the sake of adopting it, it will not make sense.
In every industry, companies know what their pain points are. So, the first thing we do is to talk to them to really understand what their pain points are. Every one of them are experts in their own industry segments; and in every industry segment, they have different knowledge and know-how. I don’t think we can do everything for them – but if they tell us what their pain points are, then it will be easier for us to come up with solutions or ideas. Of course, we could help them do diagnosis as well; but if they could tell us, it would save a lot of time and ensure cost-effective investment.
I think in the long run, smart manufacturing is not about reducing the number of workers; there is also the upgrading of people’s skills. This is going to be very important in the future.
What issues remain in terms of adopting Industry 4.0?
JC: Every customer is unique in their own needs within the same vertical or industry. Delta’s philosophy is really about stage-to-stage implementation – because we have a lot of experiences in our factory during our transformative years. We addressed a lot of challenges – and based on all these experiences, we were able to see from our customer’s perspective what they need. And then, we will match it to their pain points and see what we can offer them.
When we are having dialogues with our customers, as well as on-site visits to their factories, most of the time, we find that they have legacy equipment that are still functioning, reliable and stable. But if they are moving towards Industry 4.0, should they just throw them away and buy new ones? Of course, that’s the easiest part, but is it the best way? What if the old machine is not that energy efficient, and you want to increase the speed of your production. Nowadays, newer systems probably have twice your production output out of those legacy systems, and your payment time could be for two to three years. So these are the things that could all be brought up to the table for discussion.
More and more common protocols are being developed nowadays. But making them work on existing legacy machines is one of the key challenges, because you must get the data and the information from the machine. The structure of that data is also important. Moreover, it is also important to know what data you really need.
We had these problems or challenges in our factories previously, but we solved them step-by-step. Thus, our own platforms and our solutions could be helpful and support our customers.
Which industries are implementing Industry 4.0 strategies rapidly?
JC: From our perspective, the electronics industry is changing very rapidly in this regard because the market and the demand on the products and lifecycles are always very short. Some of the electronics manufacturers are moving around to find locations with better labour costs. But frankly speaking, in the long run, a low-cost manufacturing location will be very difficult to find. The electronics sector is adopting Industry 4.0 strategies faster than the rest partly because of the nature of the business – high-mix, low-volume, localisation, and manufacturing-in-demand.
Why are events like ITAP important to your technology and business?
JC: While these exhibitions are more focused on industrial automation, they are evolving more and more as collaboration with different industries continue to blend in this segment.
ITAP provides Delta an opportunity to really showcase what we can do and the solutions we can offer our customers and potential customers. Delta is committed to supporting industrial development in Singapore and ASEAN countries – and these events are good platforms to get awareness from different media and governments. Especially in Singapore, where the government’s push for these initiatives is quite strong, very effective and efficient. So joining these exhibition does help us.
It’s a good showcase, and we are also taking the chance to showcase our different offerings, not just Industry 4.0 solutions, but also building automation solutions, smart city solutions etc.
ITAP is a very good platform for exposure towards our digital factory solutions. There are also a lot of learning experiences for us when we participate in major events such as these in Asia.
Do you have any final comment?
JC: Delta is a global company, and we are quite focused and dedicated on the infrastructure side of automation, so we want to take the chance to tell everyone, “If you have any pain point, any difficulty, you can come to Delta.” We are originally from the power electronics side, so we are quite strong in the power management side of things – energy solutions, energy-saving, energy efficiency, are all among our expertise. Whatever you see that has a cable, there will always be a Delta component inside. We are here to help our potential customers and partners solve their problems and issues – and I hope they will join our successful transformation.
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