Friday, 17 Jan 2020

IR4.0: WHAT CAN SMES EXPECT?

The role of technology as a catalyst of continuous growth and transformation is irrefutable. From the first to the third industrial revolutions, technology has been at the centre of some monumental machine-driven inventions that led to extensive improvements across the globe. Technology is once again at its peak, as local industries find themselves at the brink of another imminent revolution – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or more commonly known as IR4.0. 

    Recently, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir launched the “Industry Forward” (Industry4WRD) National Policy to position Malaysia as a primary hub for smart manufacturing and high-tech industries. By 2025, Industry4WRD is expected to raise the economic contribution of the manufacturing sector by 54% from US61bil to US$94bil. 

    In Malaysia, SMEs are urged to seize the myriad of opportunities bound to arise from this newest revolution. Some of the main examples of technology arising from IR4.0 include self-driving vehicles, delivery drones, and robotics for higher level of automation in manufacturing. While IR2.0 was focused on mass production and IR3.0 emphasised automation, IR4.0 is expected to modernise Malaysia’s industrial capability and transform our economy into a high-value manufacturer.

    The many use cases of IR4.0 technology
    *Source: ResearchGate

      A Boost from the Government & Corporates

      Benefits of moving on to Industry 4.0 are aplenty; SMEs get to increase their productivity, flexibility, and efficiency, more rigorous R&D activities can be done, better quality of products can be made, and the potential of developing new homegrown talent are incredibly immense. 

      In order to assist SMEs to achieve this, the government has made available the Industry 4.0 Readiness Assessment (Industry4WRD-RA), a free online assessment to determine the type of assistance that organisations may need, including an allocation of RM210 million to facilitate this process. To qualify for these matching grants, the SMEs must adopt management- and operation-level recommendations from the exercise, such as improving the quality and skills of their workforce, promoting strategic collaborations to improve creation of smart technologies and business growth, and enhancing last mile connectivity in high impact areas. 

      Apart from the government, technology enablers like telco giant Celcom has introduced business solutions such as Celcom Cloud Secure which protects data in your emails and websites, and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Connected Services for real-time operational efficacy through IoT technology. These accessible solutions lower the barriers of entry for SMEs to run their businesses the IR4.0 way.

        5G leads the way

        A main vehicle in IR4.0 is 5G technology, which will significantly increase efficiency through a higher level of automation, cutting-edge robotics, data driven insight, and unprecedented global connectivity. To equip Malaysian SMEs to ride the 5G wave, the government has also budgeted a 5G ecosystem development grant worth RM50 million. 

        Recognising the importance of 5G empowerment, Celcom and fellow telecommunication heavyweight Maxis have come together for a collaboration that will enable both companies to explore possible business opportunities in key strategic areas to deliver the best 5G innovations that will benefit the people and businesses in Malaysia.

        The possibilities are endless for SMEs with 5G – the high-speed connectivity will be able to meet the speed and connectivity that Internet of Things (IoT) demands, unlocking a treasure trove of opportunities for businesses. From IT, manufacturing, retail, transportation and education to health care, agriculture, and entertainment, almost every industry will be able to benefit from 5G connectivity to traverse the Industrial Revolution 4.0. 

        Powered by 5G, businesses will have a bigger sandbox to experiment in while leveraging on existing disruptive technologies such as drones, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Businesses can also expect to become more agile – personnel employed remotely will be able to communicate and collaborate with other colleagues more effectively, including seamless access to shared cloud data across enterprises.

        The future is here

        Nevertheless, in addition to 5G adoption and the Industry 4WRD National Policy grants, various other opportunities are also available under programmes such as the National IoT Strategic Roadmap and National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) that SMEs should embrace to be ready for the demands of IR4.0. As of this year, about 20% of companies in the country have already migrated to IR4.0 while the rest of multinational companies and SMEs being expected to follow suit swiftly in successive years.