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Deep Tech Summit 2021 Spotlight: Accelerating workforce transformation in Southeast Asia


Mon, 11/01/2021 - 12:00


A conversation with Ng Tian Chong, Managing Director for Greater Asia at HP Inc. In his eight years with HP, he has accumulated experience in go-to-market strategies, financial performance and product management, spearheading the company’s regional growth agenda. He will be discussing the next decade of Industry 4.0 with other experts at Deep Tech Summit 2021.

Looking at Industry 4.0 (4IR) adoption in Asia, what are some key successes that have emerged, and what challenges persist for the manufacturing sector?

Southeast Asia’s (SEA) manufacturing outlook looks increasingly promising. Early 4IR adopters in the region have already achieved productivity gains of 10-50%, according to McKinsey. Despite the big gaps in industrial development among the 10 ASEAN states, firms willing to modernise their production facilities can achieve significant operational and environmental cost savings.

As a whole, however, the region is still reliant on labour-intensive operations that are more akin to Industry 1.0 and 2.0. What hasn’t grown much in SEA is industrial automation. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s ‘Investing in Industry 4.0’ report suggests greenfield investment in 4IR has remained flat at 12% across SEA since 2010.

This issue isn’t restricted to SEA. More than 70% of companies globally are still experimenting with advanced technologies. This year, the World Economic Forum recognised HP Singapore as a member of the Global Lighthouse Network, a network of 4IR leaders for the industry to follow. We are sharing research and expertise in Singapore to help companies identify and unlock smart capacity through digital technologies rather than increase spending on capital infrastructure.

Amidst the unpredictability brought on by the pandemic, the climate crisis and growing global uncertainty, what will be the key success factors for manufacturers moving forward?

Firms that continue to follow a low-cost, low-skilled labour model will lose ground to those applying 4IR technologies to achieve profitable and sustainable growth. In our conversations with manufacturers, we stress that 4IR adoption is a gradual process about much more than just technology.

For us, it’s about workforce transformation. Our plans for improving operations and identifying where we could add value were driven by trained teams who experimented with technologies and deployed them into our manufacturing lines.

With sustainability becoming an increasingly important factor in consumer decision making and business strategy, how will Industry 4.0 technologies give manufacturers an edge as they work towards achieving their green targets?

More than the profits they generate, companies and brands will also be measured by the value they create for society—operating not only in the service of shareholders, but also in the service of humanity. Organisations of the future must do their part to solve society’s most pressing problems and answer the call of our communities.

At HP, we understand climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. That’s why we’re committed to the journey toward net-zero emissions by 2040—10 years ahead of the UN’s net-zero goal.

By embracing additive manufacturing or 3D printing, HP introduces more flexibility in operations through on-site rapid prototyping and shortening the production timelines. This leads to less impact on the environment, less waste and greater efficiency. The factory of the future will be more flexible, with reduced need for costly and resource-heavy overhauls to retool production.

How are manufacturers navigating digitalisation despite the global tech talent shortage?

Roles of the future will involve augmented responsibilities and working in tandem with new technologies. To remain competitive and sustain a pipeline of employees and customers, businesses must actively address the skills gap through workforce education and training in digital readiness.

By leveraging technology, companies are finding new ways to support employees in remote and hybrid learning and set them up for future leadership roles. For example, HP encourages learning on the go through our training platform accessible on mobile. This allows our team to learn in bite-sized nuggets and is adapted for a generation that can flip between tasks while working from anywhere.

What advanced manufacturing technologies are you most excited about? How do you think Deep Tech will reshape the industry in the next decade?

We foresee four key pillars of transformation in the near future: Robotics and Automation, Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), Additive Manufacturing and Predictive Analytics.

For the first pillar, collaborative robots and autonomous intelligent vehicles can perform manual and routine tasks, like moving heavy goods or reorienting product parts for proper assembly. These technologies help reduce operator fatigue errors and boost productivity.

Industrial IoT is another essential component, involving sensors that collect real-time data across the entire manufacturing line. We can then dynamically manage factory processes while minimising the need for manual entry of performance data. At HP, we set up real-time analysis of camera feeds to maintain safe social distances and manage human flow through our Project SafeEye initiative.

Meanwhile, additive manufacturing can help replace machine parts, avoiding costly downtime when vendors cannot be on-site. 3D printing produces much cheaper and lighter pallets for goods transportation on our conveyor belts.

Lastly, analytics and machine learning models enable real-time detection and diagnostics of issues across manufacturing lines, reducing downtime while increasing precision of production processes. Predictive models can also replace traditional ‘destructive testing’ to reduce waste.

With analytics and HP’s factory floor management platform, Command Centre, our operations have seen a 70% productivity boost, 90% shorter issue resolution time and USD1.5M savings from waste reduction.

What is the main message you hope to share with audiences at the Deep Tech Summit?

In SEA, 4IR technology represents a systems upgrade to move the manufacturing sector beyond basic mechanisation. Highly skilled technical workforces are changing the face of manufacturing, and as more firms realise the size of this opportunity, sustainability will power exciting opportunities in the region.

Ng Tian Chong will be joining the discussion on the “Next 10 years of Industry 4.0” at the upcoming Deep Tech Summit, held on 8-10 November 2021. Tune in to the session by registering for the event here.


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