Businesses can test latest tech at new model factory

New A*Star facility includes digitised lean assembly line and virtual manufacturing lab

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon (above) trying out a 3D system at Model Factory @ ARTC during the opening of the 15,000 sq ft A*Star facility yesterday. An ARTC researcher (right) demonstrating the Digitised Lean Assembly
An ARTC researcher (above) demonstrating the Digitised Lean Assembly Line and Industry 4.0 Assembly Line. ST PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon (above) trying out a 3D system at Model Factory @ ARTC during the opening of the 15,000 sq ft A*Star facility yesterday. An ARTC researcher (right) demonstrating the Digitised Lean Assembly
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon (above) trying out a 3D system at Model Factory @ ARTC during the opening of the 15,000 sq ft A*Star facility yesterday. ST PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO

Companies that have already adopted some advanced manufacturing technologies now have another space to develop new ways of improving their factories.

For example, autonomous guided vehicles can eventually replace traditional conveyor belts, while sensors can be added to machines to track their activity - allowing this data to be monitored from a control room.

A new 15,000 sq ft facility launched yesterday by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) allows companies to view such technologies and co-develop their own.

This model factory, at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (Model Factory @ ARTC) in Jalan Bahar, has over 10 areas showcasing different technologies. They include a virtual manufacturing lab, a digitised lean assembly line and a control room that can give factory managers a real-time overview of operations, alerting them to problems by analysing data from machines on the factory floor.

Businesses that want to make use of the model factory's facilities can approach A*Star, and will have to pay a fee depending on the services they need.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said at the facility's opening that new technologies will play a major role in shaping manufacturing trends.

"Disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence are ushering a new era of manufacturing, also known as Industry 4.0," he said.

  • 20%

    Percentage the manufacturing sector contributed to Singapore's gross domestic product.

With manufacturing continuing to be important to the region's growth, Singapore is well-placed to meet the growing demand for high-quality products and services, he added. Manufacturing contributed about 20 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and 14 per cent of total employment in 2016.

The new model factory complements an earlier one launched last October at A*Star's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, which was aimed mainly at firms starting to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies.

A*Star's model factory initiative helps businesses reinvent themselves, and about 50 companies have taken part in it. Some companies, such as Abrasive Engineering whose offerings include strengthening metal components, have already started working with the Model Factory @ ARTC.

"We need to learn, upgrade and invest in digitisation and connectivity, so that we can have an online quality check system (for our products)," said its managing director Tan Ser Hean. The idea is to eliminate manual checks, reduce manpower and improve quality.

His firm aims to increase its sales by 20 per cent this year.

ARTC has also embarked on new partnerships with Nestle, Procter and Gamble (P&G) and Shell. Mr Eric Zhang, director of P&G's Asia supply network operations and Asia manufacturing, said there is risingdemand for customised products in the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

"Nowadays the speed (of our production process) doesn't match the demand we get from the market," he added. By working with ARTC, the company hopes to halve the time it takes to set up its production platforms.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2018, with the headline Businesses can test latest tech at new model factory. Subscribe