Firm uses manufacturing control tower to track 5 machines in real time

The new technology functions as a complement instead of a substitute for his staff, says Mr Kwan.
The new technology functions as a complement instead of a substitute for his staff, says Mr Kwan.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

"When can we start?" That was the only question that Mr Kwan Lifeng, CKE Manufacturing's enterprise development manager, posed when he was first introduced to Industry 4.0 in 2014.

Industry 4.0 refers to the wave of automation and data exchange that is transforming traditional manufacturing processes into more advanced technologies.

"It immediately became clear to me that if we don't adapt, we won't survive. This is the future," Mr Kwan said.

In the three years since then, the precision engineering firm has partnered the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) on a pilot trial of its Manufacturing Control Tower (MCT) platform.

MCT is part of the Model Factory @ SIMTech, one of two "Model Factories" A*Star is setting up to promote innovative manufacturing.

The firm makes use of the MCT to monitor the performance of five of its shop-floor machines in real time.

Operators are able to track the performance of the machines without having to physically inspect them, which allows them to operate more machines concurrently.

The company hopes to link up to 85 per cent of its machines to the MCT soon.

Mr Kwan stressed the new technology functions as a complement instead of a substitute for his staff.

"The staff will definitely need to be trained to interpret and present the data but the experience they have will help them visualise what's going on.

"The company needs to support them as they reskill and work with them to develop new key performance indicators as they adapt."

Speaking on the broader implications of advanced manufacturing on the sector, Mr Kwan highlighted the necessity for industry players to embrace the opportunities that are arriving with the changes.

"This is a rare window of opportunity caused by the disruption of change. Advanced manufacturing is all about finding the best platforms and deepening our competencies. We need a mindset change now," Mr Kwan said emphatically.

Samuel Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Firm uses manufacturing control tower to track 5 machines in real time'. Print Edition | Subscribe