HP Singapore among 15 global firms joining WEF's leading-edge manufacturers network

HP Singapore was able to pivot from a labour-intensive factory into a digitalised, automated one with the help of AI. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Fifteen factories have joined the World Economic Forum's (WEF) elite Global Lighthouse Network of manufacturers that have successfully harnessed advanced technologies to propel productivity, profits and sustainability gains.

This brings the network to 69 sites that have deployed Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies - including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics and automation - at scale.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic's unprecedented disruption, 93 per cent of the newly inducted innovators achieved an increase in product output and found new revenue streams, WEF said on Monday (March 15). It noted that 53 per cent also achieved measurable and marked environmental sustainability benefits.

The network is a platform for cross-company learning and collaboration to develop, replicate and scale innovations, WEF said. It also sets new benchmarks for the global manufacturing community.

HP Singapore, one of the newly inducted members of the network, was able to pivot from a labour-intensive factory into a digitalised, automated one with the help of AI. In doing so, it managed to improve manufacturing costs by 20 per cent and productivity by 70 per cent.

Similarly, China's Tsingtao Brewery reinvented its factory processes to better meet consumer needs and a growing demand for personalised products. With the implementation of digital technologies, the 118-year-old factory was able to reduce its lead times for customised orders and the development of new products by 50 per cent. Its revenues also increased by 14 per cent.

On the other hand, Ericsson built a new 5G-enabled digital factory in Texas to meet the demand for 5G radios. Through the use of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, where various devices of the manufacturing process are linked to one another via a network, Ericsson was able to increase the output of employees by 120 per cent while reducing lead times by 75 per cent and inventory by half.

The Global Lighthouse Network is a research collaboration between WEF and management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Mr Enno de Boer, partner and global manufacturing lead at McKinsey, said: "We are seeing a paradigm shift emerge, from reducing cost to more focus on enabling growth and environmental sustainability. The Lighthouses are proving that unlocking smart capacity through digital technologies is more effective than spending on capital infrastructure."

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