Going digital with ABB's innovation centre

ABB's Singapore managing director Johan de Villiers says South-east Asia is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, and ABB's expanded presence in Singapore aims to tap into it. Its new customer innovation centre includes a robotics applicat
ABB's Singapore managing director Johan de Villiers (above) says South-east Asia is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, and ABB's expanded presence in Singapore aims to tap into it. Its new customer innovation centre includes a robotics applications centre.PHOTO: ABB
ABB's Singapore managing director Johan de Villiers says South-east Asia is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, and ABB's expanded presence in Singapore aims to tap into it. Its new customer innovation centre includes a robotics applicat
ABB's Singapore managing director Johan de Villiers says South-east Asia is on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, and ABB's expanded presence in Singapore aims to tap into it. Its new customer innovation centre includes a robotics applications centre (above).PHOTO: ABB

Business owners can view high-tech solutions and customise technologies to their needs

An innovation centre opened by engineering giant ABB yesterday will let customers get up close and personal with a range of new technologies - including those that can improve life on the factory floor.

One idea is to have staff wear smart glasses, which allow ABB experts far away to see on their screens the problems that have arisen and give 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 centre, 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 process industries and the infrastructure, manufacturing, 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 Swiss-Swedish 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 a company is in its digital transformation.

"We deliberately don't come with a pre-packaged, pre-defined 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 added.

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 model factories, where companies can view, develop and test new ways of improving their production facilities.

Singapore has been transforming its manufacturing sector, which accounts for 20 per cent of gross domestic product.

Mr Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director of the Economic Development Board, said: "We are seeing strong interest from solutions providers to anchor their research and development and innovation activities here... to accelerate business transformation and tap the region's growth."

ABB is one such company, he said, adding that others such as Emerson, Siemens, Schneider Electric and Yokogawa have also set up innovation centres here.

"The presence of a critical mass of adopters and solution providers will help to proliferate the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies across industries, helping our manufacturing companies, both international and local, increase their competitiveness and ride on a new wave of growth," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2018, with the headline 'Going digital with ABB's innovation centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe