Microsoft and Federation of Thai Industries drive digital transformation in manufacturing sector with AI at the core

 |   Thornthawat Thongnab

Two men standing behind robot arm and in front of Microsoft banner

Bangkok, June 11, 2019 – Microsoft Thailand partnered with the Federal of Thai Industries (F.T.I.) to introduce new perspectives in driving Thailand’s manufacturing sector to succeed in the Industry 4.0 landscape in the CEO Envisioning Day. The event sought to showcase the intelligent capabilities of AI as a core part in maximizing productivity and efficiency while also increasing competitive opportunities in the digital era.

A joint study by Microsoft and IDC – titled Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI – focused on a survey of manufacturing businesses across Asia Pacific and found that 76% of leaders in the sector agree that AI is instrumental to their organization’s competitiveness. They also believe it will nearly double their competitiveness in the next three years. However, only 41% of organizations have started their AI journeys.

Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director of Microsoft (Thailand) Limited, said “AI is the innovation that shapes the future of the business world, especially in the manufacturing sector. However, only 9% of manufacturers have made AI a core strategic element in their business. This is a worrying sign for an industry that remains under sustained pressure from growing competition. It is necessary for business leaders to accelerate preparations that will allow them to fully embrace AI, improve productivity, and bolster competitive advantage.”

The study also shows that the manufacturing sector still lacks AI readiness in several dimensions – especially Culture, Data and Strategy. Business leaders must focus their efforts on these areas to stay competitive.

Mr. Saknarong Saengsangapong, Vice Chairman, Federation of Thai Industries, said, “It is time for the Thai industrial sector to focus on changing their perspectives, strategies and organizational cultures to extensively adopt technologies – including AI. By opening up for partnerships across the same sector, businesses can exchange information in a way that best benefits all parties, leading to increased effectiveness and competitive capacity for the entire manufacturing industry. The F.T.I. has organized training programs such as the Executive Program in Digitalization Industry of Thailand (eDIT) throughout the past three years as we work to push Thailand forward into the Industry 4.0 era.”

The F.T.I. has also worked with various academic institutions to develop specialty courses and offer internship opportunities for students, both of which are contributions to efforts in developing a quality workforce equipped with the necessary digital skills for the future.

Representing the educational sector, Prof. Dr. Suchatvee Suwansawat, President of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) sees human resources development as a key element to achieve strategic business transformation in a tangible manner. “Industrial businesses today look towards capable partners in order to realize their digital transformation strategies. These partners, meanwhile, also need quality employees to make this happen. The public and private sectors must work together to develop a digital-ready workforce and strengthen the tech ecosystem in Thailand,” said Prof. Dr. Suchatvee. “Furthermore, the private sector has to operate with a more proactive attitude and a more ambitious goal to compete with the leaders in their own fields. Simply doing our best is no longer enough in a global landscape with more opportunities for growth and competition than ever.”

On this occasion, Microsoft Thailand highlighted the achievements of E&H Precision (Thailand) Co., Ltd, a manufacturer of parts for automobiles and electronic devices with plants in Thailand, India, and Mexico, as a role model in technology adoption. By embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI at its Thai plant, the company is able to reduce manufacturing machinery downtime by 11% and raise average production hours by 30 minutes per machine per day.

Man standing in front of Microsoft logo and TV screenMr. Naoki Shibata, Support Department Manager, E&H Precision (Thailand) Co., Ltd, said, “We realized that technology can elevate the capabilities and efficiency of our production line. This is why decided to develop our own IoT and AI solutions. Starting from self-education with free online resources from Microsoft, we created an innovative IoT setup based on the Azure cloud platform to precisely address the issues we face. The system provides real-time tracking of machine conditions through sensors capable of reading the machine status indicator lights. An alert is sent out immediately in the event of machine downtime. Furthermore, our technicians are able to monitor current machinery conditions from anywhere at any time through a web application that runs on any device. It takes only five minutes to install the equipment on each machine, and the entire system can be deployed in just three weeks.”

E&H Precision (Thailand) now plans to expand the sensor network to cover all 800 machines at its facility in Thailand. The company is also working on a machine learning system that provides predictive maintenance recommendations based on analysis of machinery conditions. This will allow the factory to more effectively plan for and respond to changes in the production line, resulting in minimized downtime. Upon completion, the company may offer this solution to other interested businesses.

Man pointing at light on machine while another man observes

“Every business today needs to adapt to the digital landscape, and AI and IoT are no longer distant concepts for the manufacturing sector. These technologies do not require massive capital investment as they used to. The most important thing for businesses is courage and agility in using the best technologies to raise productivity and competitive advantage – both of which are key challenges for every organization,” Mr. Naoki added.