New collaboration between Microsoft and A*STAR to help manufacturers explore AI solutions and equip manufacturing/engineering professionals and developers with AI skills
SINGAPORE, 7 November 2018 – Microsoft Singapore today inked three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to accelerate the digital transformation of Singapore’s manufacturing sector. The MoUs were signed with A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and Industrial Internet of Things Innovation (I3) Platform.
Manufacturing contributes about a fifth of Singapore’s GDP. According to the “Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific” study conducted by Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific earlier this year, digital transformation of the manufacturing sector can provide significant economic value, adding US$387 billion to Asia Pacific’s GDP by 2021 and increase CAGR by one percent annually.
The Study also revealed that manufacturers that are undergoing digital transformation today are seeing tangible improvements to their businesses of between 13 percent to 17 percent to areas such as increased productivity, profit margins, and cost-reduction, and can also expect these to increase to at least 40 percent in the next three years. Additionally, 44 percent of respondents pointed out that one of their key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure digital transformation success today is tracking how data is being used as a capital asset, and manufacturers are planning to invest in cloud and big data analytics, followed by AI, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions this year to harness the power of data.
Accelerating digital transformation of Singapore’s manufacturing sector
As part of the MOUs signed, Microsoft will collaborate with A*STAR’s ARTC and SIMTech to help manufacturers drive the digitalisation of the local manufacturing sector by transforming their factory operations through the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies. The two research entities offer capabilities in advanced manufacturing and provide an environment for test-bedding the latest manufacturing innovations.
Microsoft will also work with A*STAR’s Industrial Internet of Things Innovation (I3) Platform to drive the adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies – beyond the factory floor – by local manufacturing companies. In addition to its own competencies, the I3 Platform will also pull together diverse capabilities from a range of science and engineering fields in A*STAR to work with Microsoft to demonstrate and test-bed comprehensive end-to-end IIoT solutions for manufacturers.
The MoUs will also pave the way for Microsoft to co-develop and co-innovate with ARTC, SIMTech and the I3 Platform pilot projects for selected business use-case scenarios, which could potentially be selected for operationalisation by each entity with Microsoft providing technical resources and support for deployment.
Empowering a future-ready manufacturing workforce
As manufacturing becomes an increasingly technical craft, manufacturing jobs will cease to be defined by manual labour. Instead, the future of manufacturing will be characterised by skilled labourers whose efforts are augmented by technology—and with it, the rise of the no-collar workforce. Due to this shift from blue collar to no-collar jobs, manufacturers globally are struggling to find workers with the skills necessary to meet today’s advanced manufacturing requirements.
According to the Study, while growing cybersecurity threats and siloed culture continue to challenge manufacturers, the lack of skills emerged as the top digital transformation challenge for manufacturers. Most urgently, we need to address the skills gap within the industry especially when one considers that respondents expect 85 percent of jobs within the sector to be transformed in the next three years.
To address the skills gap, Microsoft will work with ARTC, SIMTech and the I3 Platform to train the local manufacturing workforce, so that engineers and technicians will be equipped with skills in areas such as AI, mixed reality, IIoT and data analytics that are vital in the age of Industry 4.0.
Said Professor Tan Sze Wee, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council, “Innovation is the name of the game in today’s disrupted economy. Through A*STAR’s Future of Manufacturing Initiative, we foster close partnerships with companies to encourage co-innovation and technology adoption to help them seize business opportunities. This helps drive the digital transformation of the local manufacturing industry, enabling businesses to remain competitive by harnessing the potential of Industry 4.0. Working with Microsoft on co-innovation and training of the local workforce are important steps in this strategy.”
“Modern manufacturers are no longer just makers, they are the thread that connects the entire lifecycle of a product, and to thrive in this modern environment, they must increasingly rely upon technology to power breakthrough innovations and drive more intelligent operations,” said Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Singapore. “By working together with A*STAR to help manufacturers adopt AI technologies that tap on Microsoft’s intelligent cloud and intelligent edge, as well as equip workers with AI skills, we can bring support and rapid innovation to help create new opportunities for the manufacturing sector in Singapore and beyond.”
Tags: digital transformation