Engineering giant ABB opens new Singapore innovation centre to help customers digitalise

The robotics applications centre at Swiss multinational corporation ABB's new customer innovation facility in Ayer Rajah Crescent. This is its first such operation in South-east Asia.
The robotics applications centre at Swiss multinational corporation ABB's new customer innovation facility in Ayer Rajah Crescent. This is its first such operation in South-east Asia.PHOTO: ABB
Mr Johan de Villiers, managing director of ABB in Singapore, in the company's new collaborative operations centre at its Ayer Rajah Crescent premises on Oct 11, 2018.
Mr Johan de Villiers, managing director of ABB in Singapore, in the company's new collaborative operations centre at its Ayer Rajah Crescent premises on Oct 11, 2018.PHOTO: ABB

SINGAPORE - An innovation centre opened by engineering giant ABB on Thursday (Oct 11) will let customers get up close and personal with a range of new technology - including those that can improve life on the factory floor.

One idea is having staff wear smart glasses, which allows ABB experts miles away to see on their screens the problems that have arisen and provide guidance on how to resolve them.

Business owners can now view such innovations at the 30,000 sq ft facility in Ayer Rajah Crescent.

The centre houses training rooms as well as a collaborative operations area where customers can see how they can use data analytics and be guided on how ABB provides specialist help.

There is also a digital solutions facility that demonstrates how ABB's automated systems can work, including being able to detect workers not wearing proper safety gear.

The centre will serve the infrastructure, manufacturing, process industries, transportation and utilities sectors.

Mr Johan de Villiers, ABB's Singapore managing director, said: "It is essential for us to practically show (clients) what is possible, and allow them to get a look and a feel of it."

The fast-developing South-east Asian region is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, he added, and ABB's expanded presence in Singapore aims to cater to demands across this area.

Apart from showcasing the Swedish-Swiss multinational's latest digital offerings, the new centre allows business owners to discuss how they can customise ABB technologies to their needs instead of just buying off-the-shelf products.

Such solutions can cost anything from a few thousand dollars to millions, depending on how far along a company is in its digital transformation.

"We deliberately don't come with a prepackaged, predefined solution because every customer's situation is so unique, and technology today allows us to adjust the solution, shaping it to really solve the customer's problems," Mr de Villiers told The Straits Times ahead of the centre's opening. "That's why this place is so important."

He also noted that Singapore is ranked third globally in terms of its readiness in adopting digital technology, according to an index produced by ABB and The Economist Intelligence Unit.

"The ecosystem in Singapore is ready," he said, adding that ABB's innovation centre complements other initiatives such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) model factories, where companies can view, develop and test new ways of improving their production facilities.

Mr Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director of Singapore's Economic Development Board, said of the centre's opening: "In Singapore, we have also been transforming the manufacturing industry.

"ABB's expanded digital presence here will bolster this transformation by bringing innovative solutions to companies in Singapore, helping them produce faster and more cost-efficiently."

The ABB centre is one of a number set up here by companies over the past year or so.

German multinational Siemens opened its digitalisation hub in July last year to develop Industry 4.0 technologies in collaboration with its South-east Asian customers.

Last November, American technology firm Emerson set up a centre aimed at accelerating its Asia-Pacific customers' digital transformation and Japanese firm Azbil Corporation opened a showroom here in July to showcase its innovations involving big data and the Internet of Things.