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Eye on Malaysian Manufacturing: The disruptive nature of technology

Rosalind See | June 16, 2015
70 IT professionals from Malaysia’s manufacturing sector tackle the latest technology and design shifts at an inaugural event, the first of a new industry vertical series organised by Executive Networks Media.

Supply Chain Disruption

Expanding on this theme, Malaysian Institute for Supply Chain Innovation associate professor Dr. Albert Tan spoke of the innovation cycle.

"Product innovation creates chaos. A dominant design, such as a smartphone, will emerge which gains market acceptance and embodies the requirements of many classes of users," he stated. "Process innovation then takes place before it reaches a stage of complacency and disruption occurs. The most disruptive trend is anything that moves manufacturing closer to consumers."

Such trends include the diversification of channels and the decentralisation of production. "This follows changes in consumer patterns. The multi-platform, omni-channel push has not only increased e-commerce transactions, it has changed how consumers view, order and receive their purchases. Such mixed channel models has an impact on how manufacturers produce, store, replenish and distribute their products," said Tan. "Amazon is one such example. It has had to establish regional warehouses to manage global demands." 

"The competitive advantage goes to those who are able to master the technological complexities of the new supply chain yet have the flexibility to customise products according to consumer demands," he added. "Digitalisation is also changing the supply chain and production framework. Digitalisation's impact has been particularly harsh on information-based products such as the music industry."

ENM Manufacturing forum delegates during a networking break.

ENM Manufacturing forum delegates during a networking break.

Tools for the Workplace

Data centre trends show that the growth of mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is increasing data growth and risk. This reveals the need for a secure, reliable and efficient infrastructure which can handle real-time analysis of huge volumes of data.

"Big data and analytic technologies are increasingly used to improve production quality management and inventory management," said Lenovo Malaysia advisory client technical specialist, Enterprise Business Group, Pua Cheng Yee. "Manufacturers are sifting through data from transactions, text and machines to meet business goals. The use of production reporting tools, supply chain analytics and Hadoop has improved up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, resulting in cost reductions and improved productivity."

Improved productivity is also a consequence of the modern workplace. "The power shift to consumers is reflected in the way we work today. The modern workplace is mobile," asserted Softline Solutions International regional technical director Jeremy Lim. "Workers spend 80 percent of their time working outside their office."

"Organisations operate in a global environment with global operations, global customer bases and global competition," he continued. "The ability to communicate widely and effectively is essential in responding quickly to market opportunities. Such an edge gives organisations the ability to build customer intimacy. Using technology as a platform, organisations can create a competitive differentiation and continuously drive new products and services into the market."

Modern communication tools have improved supply chain logistics by resolving issues promptly. "It allows manufacturers to get in touch with suppliers quickly to check on delivery timelines, update material requirements and speeds up resolution of issues," said Lim.

"Managing continuous data growth is increasingly a challenge," said Hitachi Electronic Products chief information officer, MIS Department & IT Shared Services, Dr. Tamizarasu Nandan. "Data growth has seen the need for continuous IT investment in storage capacity, backup devices and media refresh. It also makes an impact on performance with possible critical service degraded due to the need for frequent attention to be paid to alerts which results in unacceptable response time."

"Data preservation is driven by regulations, governance and an organisation's own retention policies which differ according to industry. It is compounded by the requirements of business units which are reluctant to dispose of its data," he said.

Dr. Tamizarasu suggested a tiered storage solution which identified active data from inactive data as a cost-effective solution. "Optical discs are most suited for archival management with low operating cost and access performance," he said pointing to the blu-ray disc with optical archive system as an example.

Rethinking Energy Needs

"Power consumption is expected to double every five to six years," declared Schneider Electric APAC general manager, Consulting and Engineering, Data Centre Life Cycle Services (DCLS), Grant Barnes. "As an enabler of modern manufacturing, IT needs to rethink how manufacturing approaches technology and its energy challenges."

"The data centre manager faces many challenges, but it boils down to two issues - availability and efficiency," said Barnes. "There has to be a balance between the two throughout the manufacturing cycle."

"Understanding your current and future requirements is crucial to your business," continued Barnes. "Your data centre platform has to be in sync with your business strategy. Transform your data centre into a strategic asset by taking a holistic view of what is required."

The data centre design process is as important as the equipment. "Key success factors for today's data centre lies in a lean data centre which is efficient and modular. The foundation for your operations is set on sustainability, availability, accountability, resilience and stability," he said.

"Energy savings is also achievable through maximising space efficiency with integrated rack solutions, or cooling energy efficiency and modularity," said Emerson Network Power Malaysia vertical leader, Government & Light Industrial (Transportation, Manufacturing and Oil & Gas), Eric Cheah.

 "Visibility is another challenge. A facility or IT manager has to see a problem before it becomes a problem. A predictive monitoring solution which can predict, diagnose and provide action on issues across the network will help prevent any downtime," said Cheah. "The need for real-time information is critical for real-time response."

Unisem (M) Bhd vice president Corporate IT Terence Chin concurred. "Real-time lot tracking gives organisations the ability to know all about its lot manufacturing status and enables it to make on-the-spot decisions," he said. "It helps in showing the status of the lot, in line planning and quality control check." 

Chin added, "Real-time lot tracking can be achieved through the use of bar coding or through immediate data input the moment the lot appears, thus cutting down on time-consuming paperwork."

The ability to integrate manufacturing systems allows manufacturers to optimise the strengths of different systems whilst still enabling them to have an overview. However, Chin advised against integrating these systems too tightly. "Make sure you give yourselves some space to manoeuvre," he suggested.

Changing Mindsets

"Changes in mindset and mode of operation are the way forward for manufacturers," argued Monier Asia principal consultant Kelvin Kumar. "Manufacturers are moving away from merely completing orders towards a mode of demand fulfilment."

In the past, the goal was order completion. Manufacturers worked towards building safety stock and were sales and production-focused. This led to high levels of inventory, disintegrated operations and resulted in cross-functional pain points with low levels of effectiveness and a high working capital cost.

"The current mode of operation is that of integrated fulfilment where key drivers are best practices, process integration and collaboration. There is an integration of processes, practices, governance and information exchange," said Kumar. "This has led to increased effectiveness and efficiency and a lower capital cost."

"In future, predictive analysis and planning together with integrated intelligent manufacturing automation will play a major part in operations. There will be a seamless vertical collaboration between channel partners. Trust will be the keyword," concluded Kumar.


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