New hub to help SMEs find advanced tech solutions

Professor Quek Tong Boon (right), CEO of the National Robotics Programme, at a product demonstration at Omron Automation Centre.
Professor Quek Tong Boon (right), CEO of the National Robotics Programme, at a product demonstration at Omron Automation Centre.PHOTO: OMRON ASIA-PACIFIC

Smaller manufacturers looking to explore advanced technology solutions now have another sandbox to play in, with a new industrial automation research and development facility unveiled in Alexandra Technopark.

The 8,500 sq ft hub - aimed at providing solutions and training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - is part of a multimillion-dollar spending drive by technology firm Omron Asia-Pacific.

The Singapore-based company, which is part of Japan's Omron Corporation, is investing $13.5 million in robotics here over the next two years.

Its new facility, the Omron Automation Centre, features a laboratory and a showroom, and will be the first of the multinational's nine global automation centres to focus on how artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and robotics can be used in manufacturing. Target industries include the automotive, electronics and healthcare segments.

The company declined to divulge how many jobs will be added with the new facility, but Mr Lieu Yew Fatt, managing director of Omron Electronics Singapore, said: "Definitely, we're investing, increasing headcount."

New hires will be for roles such as mechatronics engineers and systems engineers, he added. Omron Asia-Pacific has about 200 workers in Singapore, out of a workforce of more than 6,000 in the region.

Economic Development Board assistant managing director Lim Kok Kiang said in a statement that the new facility will help to "drive the adoption of integrated automation solutions and robotics applications, particularly among the SMEs".

"Singapore's transformation towards advanced manufacturing has been accelerated by our push for innovation and existing strengths in manufacturing," he added. "We continue to attract adopters and technology providers to work together and build these innovative capabilities."

Mr Lieu, who oversees industrial automation sales, said Singapore was a natural choice for the research centre: "Our industry is quite mature, especially in manufacturing... I think this is the best place for a test bed."

He added that Singapore, with traditional strengths in semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, could complement other regional automation centres - such as the company's facility in India, which has a forte in food - "so we can leverage on our expertise".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'New hub to help SMEs find advanced tech solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe