The economic climate is uncertain but there are a varied array of opportunities ahead for businesses in the industrial automation space to leverage and take advantage of. Six companies gave their view on their 2016 performance and where they see the opportunities going into 2017.
Binder Connector: Achim Klett, CEO (Southeast Asia)
After a remarkable growth in 2016 that exceeded our expectations, we are expecting a lower growth for 2017. Nevertheless, we are expecting reasonable sales volumes. The main contributors to that development came from India and Japan whereas India came up with the proportionally biggest growth. On the other hand we expected more sales orders from South Korea and Taiwan. These markets still bear larger opportunities and we are looking forward to a more intense market penetration.
For 2017 we are looking forward to generating growth in markets like the Middle East, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. There we are looking forward to a much stronger presence than before.
As the market responsibilities of Binder Connector Southeast Asia comprise India, Middles East, Southeast Asia as well as the APAC region, the year 2017 will be a year full of challenges and lots of opportunities to take care of.
Igus: Stephen Moreno Simpson, MD (ASEAN)
The year 2016 has brought various challenges to the region. Uncertainties in some energetic markets, slower growth in China, scandals surrounding Malaysia and South Korea and limited investment in some of our key industries, eg: Offshore, shipbuilding just to name a few.
For igus in Asia, our availability from local stock, flexibility to customise parts in small lot sizes coupled with highly motivated and engaging cross functional team has been the key to manage growth. That no company will survive with only a few customers we learned a long time ago. Thus selling with no minimum order quantities for the complete range of motion plastics products to all industries for many years has allowed us to increase our customer base beyond 200,000 worldwide.
As indicated before, the local availability of our products across Asia was crucial for our revenue growth. In addition, Speed, online configuration and live time improvements also played an important part to accelerate our targets. Today, many of our customers come to us for our technical advice and hand carried the parts from our attached warehouse directly to their production line. They cannot even wait for our usual next day delivery anymore.
As a technology partner, we see that our customers show more interest than in the past in innovative solutions that allow them to increase the value of their fabrications or activities.
Pricing will not be the decisive factor anymore as it was in the past. The primary concern will be quality, availability and reliability of a product and the value that their final products could create along the value chain.
Delivering our smart plastics products with predictable lifetime and better performance than older technologies which are currently used in some industries is our main target and growth driver moving forward.
Smart automation & productivity increases will be our main opportunities for 2017 and the coming years. As any technological company, success will be linked to how they adapt & what they offer to Industry 4.0.
National Instruments: Eric Starkloff, executive VP
We have reported earnings through Q3 so far this year. We have one more quarter left in 2016. Our business through the first three quarters globally was up slightly up. It was a year were the overall industrial economy globally was not that strong. Some of the sectors that we serve were relatively weak compared to other years. However, if you compare us to our pears, most of those companies were down in 2016. I feel we did well despite the challenges.
The APAC region continues to do well. It is a growing region. APAC grew 23 percent in Q3, so it is a growing area for us. Most of the weakness has primarily been in the America’s and to a lesser extent Europe. We feel the industrial economy is starting to pick up with a stronger tailwind heading into 2017.
In regards to trends we see it coming from a couple of different areas, namely wireless and industrial IoT. In regards to wireless we see a lot of continued business opportunity and growth. There is a lot of development around 5G standards, for example, which helps to drive our business. The broad category of industrial IoT has also been a growth area, which includes smart factories, more sensing, and more condition monitoring.
2017 will be a year in which the industrial IoT will start to become much more real and 5G will go to trials. These two technologies will start to become real in 2017 in regards to deployment and impact.
Panduit: Eugene Yeo, Director (Asia Pacific)
We are seeing an increase in enquiries and interest in IoT. Many customers and partners want to know what IoT means to them. This has also resulted in Panduit’s business growing in 2016. An area of our business that is showing potential is our business relating to industrial automation and industrial networks. They have seen significant growth year-on-year (yoy) since the formation of the team in 2015.
To reap the full benefits of IoT and Industry 4.0, manufacturers and industrial producers need to realise that this will be a journey they have to start now, to gain the benefits progressively over time as IoT and other enabling technologies comes on stream and become accessible. Like with past industrialisation efforts which we have experienced years ago, we have to start charting out this new journey to build and upgrade operational infrastructure that will be ready to take advantage of what IoT or industry 4.0 will bring now and in the future. Not only for improved productivity, operational and workforce optimisation/efficiency but perhaps even more important is the company’s ability to compete in responding to market and consumer changes. The ones that can use this technology to capitalise and anticipate quickly to consumer behaviour and trends will certainly be ahead.
At Panduit, we are a manufacturer ourselves and our operational team is already embarking on this journey. We are seeing more and more of our customers moving in the same direction and many enquiries asking for our solution that can help them with IoT.
Panduit and our partners are advising customers to take necessary care to assess their operational environment and do not take unnecessary risk due to a lack of industrial and ruggedise networking products. We hope over time more and more companies will be aware of the issue to ensure reliable IoT implementations. We encourage customers to put in place adequate assessment methodologies and documented specifications for their new and improvement investments.
This is also enabling the growth of cloud based solutions leading to DC growth. Cyber security and network security will need to be addressed as well.
Many governments and countries are following the lead and leveraging from IoT and industry 4.0 to come up with their own initiatives. This is one effort, and an important one to reinvigorate their economy and to put their industries ahead of others.
In 2017, Panduit wishes to partner our customers in this journey and help offer and unlock the IoT potential to reap sustainable value and development.
Rockwell Automation: Tang Poi Toong, Marketing Director (Southeast Asia)
2016 has been a mixed year for Rockwell Automation due to uncertainties in various vertical markets, especially natural resources. The oil and gas segment, particularly the upstream component, is experiencing volatility, where prices have tumbled and remain unstable. Hence, we diversified and are investing more resources in midstream and downstream.
In contrast, the consumer sector performed better than we had anticipated – thanks to the expanding middle class and its positive, long-term economic indicators that are fuelling consumer spending. Likewise, infrastructure projects, spurred by government investments, also helped boost industries including metals, cement, water and wastewater, as well as transportation.
Overall, we are confident that Southeast Asia will experience growth in the longer term and Rockwell Automation is committed to this region. We have a new president of Asia Pacific, Joe Sousa, and a new regional director of Southeast Asia, Pierre Teszner, who are making sure we invest in the right facilities and human resources to meet regional demand.
Rockwell Automation views three global challenges that will drive the competitive industrial environment in 2017. First, the rise of the middle class in emerging economies means producers must compete by building first-rate consumer manufacturing plants that outperform both local and global manufacturers. Second, there is tremendous pressure to fill the skills gap with technology-savvy workers to replace retiring employees. Finally, globalisation forces us and our customers to constantly contend with the world’s best-in-class companies that have footprints in many markets.
From the smart manufacturing standpoint, the declining cost of connectivity between the plant floor, field devices and the enterprise is driving unprecedented productivity across multiple networks converged over Ethernet. To support our customers in their journey towards becoming Connected Enterprises, Rockwell Automation utilises a three-pronged approach: understanding customers’ requirements to maximise competitive advantage; combining technology innovation and expertise to minimise risks; and simplifying customers’ business experiences to improve industrial productivity.
Rockwell Automation will continue to bring The Connected Enterprise to life for our customers – by facilitating the convergence of plant-floor Operations Technology (OT) and business-level IT – so they can enjoy improved time to market, lowered total cost of ownership, enhanced asset utilisation, minimised enterprise risk, and advanced workforce efficiency.
Universal Robots: Shermine Gotfredsen, GM (APAC Excl. China & India)
On the global level Universal Robots (UR) continues to experience high growth, particularly in the APAC region. We have exceeded what we set out to achieve in 2016. It has been a very good year for us in APAC. We have expanded our footprint into Vietnam and the Philippines and we are seeing strong growth in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. In Singapore, the government is pushing for more productivity and automation, which benefits us. We are working with some government agencies to help raise awareness and educate the market more on automation and collaborative robots (co-bots).
In 2017 the APAC region will be split into two regions, namely, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Northeast Asia will cover Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The management team will sit in the Japan office. In Singapore, we will continue to grow the market in Southeast Asia, now consisting of six countries, as well as Oceania.
2017 is going to be an exciting year. We will need to work very hard, particularly when we only have Southeast Asia and Oceania to cover. We cover a lot of underdeveloped markets in this region in regards to automation and robotics. In that sense it is going to be challenging to raise awareness and to encourage adoption at the same level we have been growing to date. Having said that we believe that some of the new initiatives and activities that we are pushing out for next year will have a great impact on adoption. On the flipside of doing business in underdeveloped markets there are a lot of opportunities for growth and to develop the market. It is going to be a very exciting year that will require a lot of hard work to realise the region’s full potential.