HomeInterviewNECTEC push to boost Industry 4.0

NECTEC push to boost Industry 4.0

IoT, data analytics leading to intelligent industries

The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) has developed a platform with which factories and businesses in Thailand’s manufacturing sector can attain the digital transformation necessary to reach Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is a major part of the government’s plan to transform the country into an innovation and knowledge-based digital economy known as Thailand 4.0 – a  title that proclaims the goal of achieving a fourth industrial revolution and lifting the country into regional pre-eminence.

NECTEC’s Executive Director, Dr. Chai Wutiwiwatchai, told The Story Thailand that the Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) and Data Analytics (IDA) platform stems from the agency’s desire to develop an intelligent Industry 4.0 system for Thailand.

An important aspect of Industry 4.0 is to get factory machines connected together, so that the performance, consumption of energy and production capacity of individual machines – along with other factors – can be monitored in real time. 

Such monitoring can be carried out with sensors through Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Sensors installed at machines can provide such readings as energy consumption and vibration, and the images and data thus recorded can be stored in a cloud computing system.

NECTEC’s Chai said the IDA platform has been developed for Industry 4.0 factories. It will help to improve their flexibility, allow them to produce according to demand, lessen their need for stocking, and enable the planning of production with minimum energy consumption.

Factories in the post-COVID-19 economy will be more concerned with manufacturing in large volumes. They will adapt by producing solely to fill orders, a move that will require a precise understanding of product design and relevant production processes.

“All of the data will be on a control dashboard for executives to use in designing production. Our goal is to move industries in Thailand that are still operating at [Industry] 2.0 level, gradually towards Industry 4.0,” Chai said.

A “go-between” linking state and private agencies

NECTEC has a duty to employ its technologies to coordinate industrial research and development throughout the country. For instance, NETPIE is the central IoT platform of choice for the new IDA system. All of the data will be drawn into the central IoT system, allowing the factories of all other industries to benefit. Also, with access to this data, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand will be able to plan its production to provide power to factories.

A device called a Universal Remote Terminal Unit (URTU) will be connected to machines, allowing sensors to gather data that will be transmitted through a cloud computing system. The hardware will be provided by its manufacturer.

“This is a pilot project under the EECi [Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation] project. The goal is to set up a sustainable manufacturing centre by creating an entire ecosystem,” Chai said.

He added that NECTEC would help by procuring technologies at prices affordable to factories. The agency will also raise funds from the public sector, with partners like the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), to help reduce the cost to factories run by small- and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Additionally, NECTEC will help with the installation and transfer of technology to “system integrators”, or software houses. With an understanding of NECTEC’S technology, they will be able to assemble the technologies and advise individual industries on how they should be used.

“We believe that factories in Thailand are highly capable. However, to get them to move up from Industry 2.0, we need to provide assistance. When they can monitor their energy use, factories will then be able to monitor their production, and in the future they will be capable of predictive maintenance,” Chai said.

Pushing for intelligent factories

Chai revealed that NECTEC began its IDA project even before it was approved by the National Economic and Social Development Council. In late 2019, the agency began discussions with partners and launched in-house trials of the technology. Although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the project down, an agreement of collaboration was signed on June 19, 2020.

The first goal this year is to perfect the IDA-system dashboard in accordance with the needs of between 10 and 20 pilot factories. These factories have been helping to “tune up” the technology so that it works for the purpose of monitoring.

Over the next two years, work will focus on expanding the project into the wider industrial sector through collaboration with the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Automation and Robotics Association (TARA). The goal is to cover 500 factories.

As well as its IDA system, NECTEC has three other projects in the pipeline – robot automation, smart warehouses, and industrial artificial intelligence (AI), Chai said. The agency wants Thailand to begin developing its own robots for use in factories. It also considering the production of devices to make warehouses “smarter”, and equipping factories with artificial intelligence technology to examine manufactured products, manage quality control and monitor entire production processes via cameras and sensors.

“These three issues are still in the development stage. Unlike IDA, their ecosystems are still not complete,” he said, adding that the country as a whole would benefit from their development.

Large corporations or major partners will be able to monitor energy consumption, enabling them to draw-up energy-saving plans for manufacturing. NECTEC will also serve as a go-between, linking industrial operators with research agencies wishing to put newly-developed technologies to good use, in an effort to reduce dependency on imported technologies.

Chai said the number of highly capable system integrators in Thailand has been increased, and they are now familiarizing themselves with the technologies. At the same time, factories are able to acquire good solutions at affordable prices.

“Factories that join the IDA system will come under SIRI – the Smart Industry Readiness Index, which is a collaborative effort with Singapore. The factories will be evaluated to determine how prepared they are to shift towards intelligent industry and what they still lack. This information will enable factories to learn what they still have to do in their transformation towards intelligent industry.”



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