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Singapore firms seize Industry 4.0 opportunities in South-east Asia


SINGAPORE - Home-grown industrial software solutions firm Auk Industries, which provides Internet of Things (IOT) systems to firms in the manufacturing sector, has been progressively building its network in the South-east Asia region in the past couple of years.

Last September, it secured a project with healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson in Thailand, where its solution for a mouthwash production line was deployed to improve plant performance. Auk Industries' "plug-and-play" solution allows companies to access vital machine statistics and operations data with ease.

Other multinational corporations operating in the region which have deployed its solutions include dairy producer Fonterra and German stationery manufacturer Stabilo.

Auk Industries is among firms in Singapore that are expanding their presence in the region and capturing opportunities arising from growing demand for Industry 4.0 solutions despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.

Over the past few years, it has moved into Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, said chief executive and cofounder Samuel Tan, noting South-east Asia's vast potential, given its huge manufacturing base.

But opportunities come with a fair share of challenges, as each country has different regulatory requirements and business culture.

"We have to start from scratch, navigating each new Asean market that we enter and getting from zero to one. Capturing the first three to five clients is usually the most challenging (task)," Mr Tan said. Mr Chew Hwee Yong, Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) global markets director for South-east Asia, noted how countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, have continued to prioritise the growth of their manufacturing sectors during the pandemic.

Corporates in these countries have stepped up on Industry 4.0 efforts to transform and strengthen their businesses' operating models and value chains.

"Such mid- to long-term developments will open up new opportunities for Singapore companies to expand their presence in the region," he said, citing how Singapore firms can offer the likes of automation and robotics solutions, as well as manufacturing plants, to support multinational corporations in their production activities.

In the first eight months of last year, EnterpriseSG supported around 80 projects for firms to expand into the manufacturing sector in Asean. This was more than the 56 projects supported over the whole of 2020.

The agency supported about 100 such projects in 2019, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It expects to support about the same number of projects in 2021 than it did before the pandemic.
ESG's Mr Chew noted that given travel restrictions due to Covid-19, firms have adapted by pivoting online.

The agency has also continued to support companies through the likes of virtual events, trade fairs and livestreaming of site visits, he added.

For example, with increased inquiries on Thailand's manufacturing sector from Singapore companies, EnterpriseSG and the Singapore Business Federation co-organised a webinar in July last year.

The webinar, which was attended by representatives from around 80 firms, facilitated the sharing of insights on industry trends, market developments and opportunities in Thailand's manufacturing industry, Mr Chew noted.

Meanwhile, local firm Performance Rotors, which provides inspection services using drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, set up its office in Malaysia in September last year.

While expansion of its operations in Malaysia has been hampered by the pandemic, especially given Covid-19 curbs such as Malaysia's movement control order, the firm has taken the time to plan its course, said chief executive and co-founder Keith Ng.

The company's office in Malaysia could possibly house some product assembly lines on top of providing inspection, training and support services within the country, which would be similar to how its the Netherlands outpost serves the European market, he added.

"We aim to have a base in different regions, so as to provide the best value to our clients, offering our services without loading unnecessary operational overheads onto the clients," Mr Ng said.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.