Mitsubishi Electric Asia, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, recently announced its collaboration with leading partners and experts to form the first strategic partnership in Singapore, e-F@ctory Alliance. Ahmad Alshidiq interviewed Soichiro Kuninobu, General Manager, ASEAN Strategic Marketing Group, Factory Automation and Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric Asia, about the Alliance and the application of the IIoT.
The e-F@ctory Alliance aims to help companies embark on a journey towards developing the Internet of Things and digital transformation, and it taps on the application of IIoT technologies in business by extending the factory automation network in Singapore and expanding to ASEAN countries.
With the rise of Industry 4.0, could you provide us with an overview of the current trends regarding process automation and control in industrial manufacturing?
The Internet of Things brings both benefits and challenges. With everything connected, the world is smaller and global competition is at your doorstep. This means that all companies need to reduce costs, improve quality and lead times, and take various measures to maintain profitability. In addition, customers expect ‘personalised’ products, such as being able to select the colour, shape, lettering or style of a product. This ‘mass customisation’ is a dream for the customer, but can be a challenge for the producer. In the end, integrating IoT or Industry 4.0 in industrial manufacturing is not your ultimate goal. Creating a cost-efficient, flexible and high-quality production line is.
Manufacturers are thus trying to use cutting-edge technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, the cloud, virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR), 5G and edge computing, in order to utilise Information Technology (IT) and integrate with operation technology (OT). There used to be a lot of hype surrounding these technologies, but for the past few years, Mitsubishi Electric Asia has moved into implementation phases all over the world. We are actually using these technologies in customer sites. A number of these technologies have already created great benefits for our customers.
With all these new technologies being used in industrial manufacturing, jobs in the industry are likewise evolving, and workers need to adapt quickly. At Mitsubishi Electric Asia, we keep our people up-to-date and relevant through regular training and upskilling.
What is the importance of the e-F@ctory Alliance in addressing present-day challenges in digital manufacturing?
Everybody talks first about great technology, but at the end somebody at the factory site has to install the IoT solution, and make it work. Everything from designing, programming, wiring, debugging, and maintaining the system cannot be done remotely by AI. At the end, there needs to be local teams that can address these issues, with real people that can be on-site to solve the problems of the IoT users. That is why at Mitsubishi Electric Asia, our goal is to be a “Global Partner. Local Friend”, which is the main reason we are establishing a local e-F@ctory Alliance. We aim to create an eco-system with our local system integrators, solution providers, and local branches of global partners, so we can provide local support to customers of Mitsubishi Electric Asia.
What are your expectations for the Alliance in Asia and Southeast Asia?
Manufacturing has always grown in areas with rising populations. In light of Southeast Asia’s young and growing population, it is one of the most promising areas for manufacturing in the future. We also expect that there will be many greenfield projects, with fewer worries about connectivity with existing systems. There, the adaption of cutting edge technology can be accelerated compared to more developed countries with legacy assets. The young population will also be a plus factor, as we foresee that they will be able to provide abundant innovative ideas for improvement.
How do you see the future of Mitsubishi Electric Asia in this fast changing industry environment?
Mitsubishi Electric Asia, as a recognised world leader in manufacturing and sales of electric and electronic equipment, will continue advocating for further integration of sustainability into business strategy – from embracing new capabilities and technological breakthroughs to delivering innovative strategic products and solutions that cater to the needs of today’s rapidly-shifting market to maximise users’ overall experience and bring significant social and economic benefit to our society.
We dedicate our efforts to creativity, exploring business opportunities and enriching people’s lives through passion for innovation.
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