ABB’s robotics solutions are making their way into Vietnamese manufacturers such as VinFast

Domestic enterprises are embracing robotics and advanced technologies in their production lines to boost smart manufacturing activities, but there is a long road ahead for those wishing to keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Than Duc Viet, CEO of Garment 10 JSC, became a magnet at a smart manufacturing session of the Industry 4.0 Summit in Hanoi last week as he batted away on-going concerns of machines replacing people, and worries that the garment sector is not ready to join Industry 4.0.

“We have just come back from the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition – we have already invested in high-tech machines from Germany and Japan, and we are ready to invest in automation lines and big data,” said Viet.

Garment 10 is one among many local firms that have been well aware of technological application to improve labour productivity, but some of them are specific industries required to switch their facilities into automotive lines slowly, a process that needs careful hands from tech giant groups for the correct solutions.

From strategy to action

The textile and garment sector, one of the Vietnam’s leading export industries, is trying its best to embrace automation and find answers to allow manufacturers to meet the growing demand for greater productivity, efficiency, and flexibility. Some particular fields such as fibres, weaving, and dying will drive aggressively towards automation.

However, Viet said that his company would start with a lean factory as there must not be a sudden change from current manufacturing technologies to something new.

“Two of our three production stages have been automated, but the sewing process is hard to automate,” said Viet.

Pham Duc Cuong, technical manager of Vietnam Cement Industry Corporation (VICEM) said that the group previously received requests from the government to increase the value of the application of technology in its production chain, and take environmental issues into consideration when devising growth strategies, including better co-ordination with the transport sector. “Thus, we made a roadmap for smart manufacturing that include three distinct factors,” said Cuong.

Cuong explained that in order to create new competitive advantages, VICEM is now oriented to stay aligned with Industry 4.0 based on advanced technology platforms. Besides existing factories, it needs to invest in achieving smart factories, fostering the ability to change products quickly, and using the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies to digitalise the whole process.

To cut costs and increase capacities, Le Hoang Duy, deputy director of Vinasoy Soybean Application Research Center said that it had also a clear roadmap and actions for his company.

Vinasoy uses the technology and know-how of Swedish firm Tetra Pak to automate its production process. It also began to apply ABB solutions with automated pick and place and box palletting systems that have resulted in greater safety and hygiene, consistency, and precision in packing, as well as less manpower.

Autotech Machinery JSC Vietnam’s director Pham Thu Huong remarked that Vietnamese enterprises are also looking to apply automation to increase productivity and improve product quality.

“In the trend of Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing is a combination of IT and other technologies to optimise progress in order to meet the dynamic transformation of the market. This is a long process, but it must be started right now and smart factories are the first step,” said Huong.

Robots have a critical role in the “factory of the future”. According to US management consultant BCG, producers are now deploying advanced robotics as an essential element of advanced automation that enables the self-controlled factory of the future. Enhancing plant structures and processes with digital technologies can increase productivity and flexibility in both the factory and the supply chain, enabling producers to rapidly adjust to changing customer needs.

As for ABB, their robots are used in industries across Vietnam, such as in automotives, electronics, animal feed, food and beverages, and chemicals, as well as metal and brick fabrication. The company recently supplied thousands of robots to an electronics manufacturer and to VinFast, the first Vietnamese electric carmaker.

According to a World Economic Forum report, the value of digital transformations in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is estimated at $100 trillion in the next 10 years alone, across all industries, and locations. The manufacturing sector, which has long been a driver of global prosperity and economic growth, is a key to this transformation.

Preparing for the future

At last year’s World Economic Forum for the ASEAN in Hanoi, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc spoke of the need for businesses in the country to adopt Industry 4.0 technology including automation, big data analytics, robotics, and AI. Some businesses, especially the bigger state-owned enterprises, are heeding the call.

The smart factory market is poised to rise from $75 billion in 2018 to over $155 billion by 2025, according to a 2019 report by Global Market Insights, a global market research and management consulting company. The market is driven by the growing demand for intelligent industrial solutions that can organise output and save on labour and operational costs. These types of factories are digitally advanced and connected facilities enhance the manufacturing performance, along with replacing human workers in a variety of operations.

Several technologies including IoT, AI, big data, and analytics in the smart factory market have the ability to operate autonomously and self-correct. Various planning and management software products detect probable errors and alert managers to eliminate losses, creating a high demand for these solutions.

Additionally, government initiatives and policies in European and Asian countries to promote the utilisation of intelligent factory techniques are also major factors attributing to smart factory expansion.

“To keep its competitive edge in the global market, Vietnam needs to adopt industry digitalisation and advanced manufacturing through robotics and automation. This is another area where ABB can contribute,” Brian Hull, country managing director of ABB previously told VIR. “We believe the Vietnamese government can support in education that should focus on digital technologies in both vocational and tertiary education. It can also stimulate adoption through fiscal incentives to industry players and mandating smart technology in government tenders. The government should also focus on local innovation, by supporting and encouraging local startups and fostering a partnership model between industry, government, and academia in new-age technologies.”

Raimund Klein, head of digital industries at Siemens ASEAN said that solutions are flexible, but it is important to point out the weakness of facilities’ progress.

“I don’t think Industry 4.0 is just for big companies, it is for all companies. Smart manufacturing depends on customer demand, readiness, and understanding,” said Klein.

Nguyen Quan, chairman of the Vietnam Automation Association also said, “If you want to prepare and improve your lines, data should be collected in order to solve any problem.”

Quan stressed that Industry 4.0 will require significant upskilling, which may impact their organisation and ways of working. An Industry 4.0 Vietnam survey report last year noted that there is a lack of clarity on the specific skills, knowledge, and capabilities required to make the digital integration with Industry 4.0 a reality in Vietnam. Core capabilities required for Industry 4.0, such as data analytics, are also lacking.

Recently, the prime minister has asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment to develop a national strategy in this area, and requested ministries and localities to design an action plan in line with Industry 4.0.

VIR