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Report: Asia-Pacific Factories Lead in Using Digital Technology

Cisco Systems’ Roy noted that small and medium firms “are at varying stages of maturity in terms of digital adoption” and could use collaboration with governments and corporations

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A robot is seen in the automobile production line of the new Honda plant in Prachinburi, Thailand, May 12, 2016. VOA
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She may not be the warmest waitress, but she serves a nice, hot cup of “Joe” at a café on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

Though this robotic barista is still getting help from her human counterpart, she is a signal that Asia is ahead of the curve in embracing new technologies ahead of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

A recent report from PwC Global, a professional services firm, studied 1,155 manufacturing businesses based on how much they were embracing and incorporating innovations in technology, from drones to 3-D printing.

Across the board, companies in the Asia-Pacific region scored higher than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

In Thailand, for instance, manufacturing companies have widely adopted new technologies to transform their operations.

“Many are using robots to assemble products at their factories to rely less on human labor, reduce costs, and boost overall efficiency,” said Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner at PwC Thailand.

robot
FILE – An instructor explains the operation of a drone to students at a school run by TT Aviation Technology in Beijing, Oct. 17, 2015. China has quickly emerged as a leading player in the international race for drone manufacturing. VOA

ASEAN catches up

The report graded firms based on questions about the kinds of tools they were introducing into their workplaces. For example, manufacturers were asked if they made use of virtual reality; 44 percent in the Asia Pacific said they did compared with 34 percent in the United States and 19 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The regional group Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reports that small and medium enterprises are using new technology to catch up to bigger rivals.

“Digitization is enabling SMEs across ASEAN to participate in cross-border trade, allowing them to grow and scale their businesses while reducing costs,” said Bidhan Roy, a general manager at Cisco Systems Pte Ltd.

Benefits of youth

Observers say the Asia-Pacific region benefits from its youth.

The relatively young population means people are amenable to different work environments and business operations, as well as having a keen interest in using new technology.

Another advantage? The region’s economies are also somewhat young, with many just opening up to global trade in the last two decades. In addition its underdeveloped infrastructure has the ability to adapt for future needs, like public transit or drone deliveries.

robots
An iPal couple social robots help teach children at a kindergarten in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, July 4, 2018. Designed to offer education, care and companionship to children and the elderly, the 3.5-feet tall humanoid robots come in two genders and can tell stories, take photos and deliver educational or promotional content. VOA

“Asian companies have the advantage of setting up robust digital operations from essentially a blank slate in terms of factory automation, workforce, and even organizational IT [information technology] networks as a whole,” the PwC report said.

Baby steps

But more is needed to make these companies successful.

Cisco Systems’ Roy noted that small and medium firms “are at varying stages of maturity in terms of digital adoption” and could use collaboration with governments and corporations.

PwC Thailand’s Vilaiporn agreed on the benefit of collaboration.

Also Read: Apple Confirms It’s Deal With Oprah Winfrey For Digital Entertainment

“Thailand 4.0 will only be successful if both the government and private sectors understand their roles in fostering investment and focusing on research and development, as well as equipping the workforce with necessary skill sets and capabilities,” he said.

The “4.0” refers to the latest industrial revolution, which goes beyond mechanization and automation. It entails business processes becoming more efficient through a comprehensive application of technology, from smart devices to machine learning. (VOA)

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The Top Automotive Trends for This Year

At the very least, we can expect both motorists and automotive companies to have confidence in the future on account of robust sales figures

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Electric cars are gaining more and more popularity in India and are sure to see a boom in their sales and production in the coming future. Photo: M. Rittgerott
Top Automotive Trends of this year listed. VOA
  • Sale of vehicles and automotive parts is on an all-time-high
  • Last year 4 million cars were sold alone in India
  • The numbers are indicating towards a potential upswing

Sales of vehicles and automotive parts continue to increase in India. And just last year, the country saw at least four million cars sold. For a country touted to be one of the largest automotive industries in the Asia-Pacific region, the numbers only show a potential upward swing.

The increase in cess for large cars and sports utility vehicles jumped from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.

India saw the sale of 4 million vehicles last year.At the very least, we can expect both motorists and automotive companies to have confidence in the future on account of robust sales figures. Industry projections also provide reasons to feel elated. For one, the industry is set to grow at a pace of 10 to 15 percent. Given the right conditions and institutional support, it is set to reach a value of $16.5 billion by 2021.

Despite these positive figures, however, it is important to recognize the factors that will either bring new innovations to the table or worsen current challenges.

Here are some of the most important trends to watch out for this year.

Low-cost labor

India is indeed a haven for international car companies seeking to establish assembly lines at low costs. The availability of skilled labor and, with that, low wages will continue to play a vital role in improving annual production rates. China is the powerhouse for now, but local car manufacturers in India are maximizing the current labor climate in a bid to outrank its oriental neighbor.

 

Research and Development of features like fuel efficiency will be one of the main trends.

 

Focus on research and development

Safety and environmental concerns continue to be a priority among international car manufacturers. Consumers are still reeling from the serious recalls Toyota had to implement in response to factory defects. The experience created an atmosphere of caution, where buyers have become more focused on ensuring their own safety on the road. Design and manufacturing have thus skewed more towards ensuring better airbag systems, quality assessment procedures and environmental compliance.

Ventures with other companies

Innovations and technological shifts are a given, but it remains crucial for manufacturers to forge stronger relationships with OEM and tier partners such as machining services, AC parts suppliers, and windshield installations. However, due to incessant innovations, suppliers will have to update existing technologies or undergo acquisitions by larger OEMs where the sharing of vital resources of knowledge is very much possible.

 

Also Read: Electric Cars: The Newest Trend In India

Reliance on digital marketing

As with previous years, manufacturers and dealerships will continue to adapt to current digital trends. In terms of distribution, using online platforms can actually help in saving costs by selling directly to buyers, hence bypassing retailers. What’s more, using their online brand presence, car manufacturers can do better market research and outreach activities, allowing them to shorten the time it takes before buyers can make their decisions.

 

Digital marketing is another popular profession among graduates. Wikimedia Commons
Digital marketing will potentially increase the sales of cars. Wikimedia Commons

 

Focus on reforms

In a 2017 blog article by Priyam Saraf for The World Bank, policy reforms in the country are crucial for enhancing India’s competitiveness. Investments in research and development should also go hand in hand with reduction of tariffs as a way towards lessening the pressures on the automotive industry. More importantly, measures for improving compliance to global standards can further strengthen the industry’s performance in the face of rising competition that lies close to home.