Harnessing the Benefits of Industry 4.0 Tech for the Manufacturing Sector

Schneider Electric

Harnessing the Benefits of Industry 4.0 Tech for the Manufacturing Sector

By Philip Lee, Vice President, Industrial Automations at Schneider Electric

During the pandemic, the manufacturing industry was severely impacted due to falls in external trade demand and supply chain disruptions. Three years on, as the industry looks to gradually recover, there are issues to be tackled such as improving supply chain management, overcoming operational inefficiencies, and building a strong pipeline of skilled talent. Afterall, manufacturing was amongst the top sectors contributing to Singapore’s job vacancies in March 2023, according to the Ministry of Manpower.


Many say that the key to mitigating these issues is harnessing the benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies as they enable more effective and seamless processes through increased automation – but where does Singapore stand in this digital transformation journey?

Singapore’s approach to Industry 4.0

As a global trading hub, Singapore has been embracing Industry 4.0 initiatives, leveraging tech tools like robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create smart and autonomous systems. In fact, Singapore ranks as the world’s second most automated country, driven by its goal of increasing manufacturing value-add by 50% by 2030.

One prime example is the use of collaborative robots or ‘cobots’, which have already made significant headway in the country. Not only are they small, simple to program, and built with robust safety features, these systems can deliver next-level efficiency and resilience by performing consistent and precise production processes that not only boost productivity but also help to minimise downtime, which can cost factories as much as 20% in productive capacity.

There are also people benefits. Cobots can work in environments that are hazardous to humans, thereby reducing workplace injuries and improving overall safety. By leveraging cobots, manufacturers can also free employees up to do more value-added tasks like conducting quality checks, as well as other types of work that are more rewarding to each individual, leading to better job satisfaction.

Additionally, the use of cobots can bring add-on benefits, such as helping organisations accelerate their decarbonisation efforts through innovation and enhanced capabilities. For example, cobots support space saving, waste reduction, and reduced energy consumption thereby making processes more environmentally sustainable.

Taking it to the next level

While the benefits of Industry 4.0 are clear, more can be done to enable more businesses to reap these benefits.

One way is through demystifying a commonly held perception that AI and cobots will one day replace workers, when industrial automation is simply meant to empower improvement at every level. If workers are assured that cobots will only enhance their livelihoods, these technologies can be seamlessly integrated into existing infrastructures and workforces for instant improvement.

Another immediate step that the industry can take is to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt these technologies as well. SMEs are the backbones of our economy yet they typically have limited resources, so such investments do come at a price. However in the long run it can help increase productivity for them and respond to other business considerations such as a shortage of workers. Initiatives like the Environmental Services Digital Roadmap by IMDA, for example, can help SMEs upskill and train to work with cobots more collaboratively.

The future of digitalisation

That said, to make these automation processes truly effective in the long run, they need to be part of a wider network of smart technologies. Integrated, cyber-secure, and scalable IIoT platforms can be effective in helping management make more cohesive, data-backed decisions that fuel process improvements. Users can also leverage the flexibility and versatility of the systems to enhance functionalities and automate new tasks.

Businesses also need to embrace constant innovation, especially as advances in machine learning, augmented reality, real-time analytics and IoT continue to hold great promise for the industry’s performance. In 2021, Schneider Electric joined other industry pioneers to form UniversalAutomation.org – an independent, not-for-profit association that aims to reimagine current industrial systems and processes and enable collaboration on a new scale to reach next-generation sustainability, innovation, and agility. Such coalitions will be pivotal in ensuring that businesses can capitalise on the immense opportunities provided by Industry 4.0 and support Singapore’s Economy 2030 vision to develop new engines of growth across key economic sectors.





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