Automate Asia Magazine Jun-Aug 2024

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Vibrant Semiconductor Industry Fortifies Malaysia’s Role as Reliable Regional Partner - PM

MRANTI Addresses Malaysia’s Shift to Become Technology


Why the Term Industry 5.0 is Controversial


Interview with Alan Fam, CEO, KUKA Malaysia & Regional CEO, KUKA APeC (Asia Pacific except China)

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim stated that Malaysia’s thriving semiconductor industry reinforces its status as a dependable regional partner in manufacturing, trade, and innovation. He noted that Malaysia, ranking as the world’s sixth-largest semiconductor exporter, has a strong manufacturing foundation, especially in the global electronics and electrical sector.

During the 29th International Conference on The Future of Asia, Anwar emphasized Malaysia’s attractiveness amid rising tensions and trade restrictions in the microchip sector. He added that Malaysia’s stability, skilled workforce, and nonalignment in economic and geopolitical matters make it a secure destination for investors.

Additionally, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (Miti) and the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) will conduct a mid-term review of the National Automotive Policy 2020 (NAP 2020). Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz stated that this review will consider the fast-paced developments in automotive technology, especially in energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs).

Don’t miss our upcoming event, Electronics Manufacturing Expo Asia (EMAX) that will be held at Setia SPICE Convention Centre, Penang, from 24th to 26th July, 2024. On behalf of the editorial team, thank you for your massive support of Automate Asia Magazine. Stay in touch with us at for more updates.

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The assertionand opinions expressed in articles and announcements on this magazine reflect the views of the author(s) and do not (necessarily) reflect the views of the publisher. Automate Asia Magazine can in no way whatsoever be held responsible for the content of such views nor can it be held liable for any direct or indirect damage that may aris from such views

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Automate Jun-Aug 2024 4


08. Hai Robotics Opens New Headquarters in S’pore, Will Expand Hiring

10. KUKA’s Robots to Support High Productivity and Quality Manufacturing

13. National Robotics Programme Receiving $60m to Help Spur Robot Adoption in Industry


16. Taiwan’s SPIL Breaks Ground on RM6 Billion Semiconductor Plant in Penang

18. Tengku Zafrul: Miti, Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute to Undertake Mid-Term Review of National Automotive Policy 2020

20. Vibrant Semiconductor Industry Fortifies Malaysia’s Role as Reliable Regional Partner - PM


22. Amazon Says Will Invest $9 Billion in Singapore


24. Encouraging Awareness of Cyber Immunity, Kaspersky Officially Joins Malaysia IoT Association

25. Kinéis, Semtech Partner to Integrate Satellite & Terrestrial IoT on Same Single Chip


26. How Humanoid Robots Can Help Narrow Gaps Between Automation and Labor

28. Malaysian Students Shine at International Robotics Tourney

30. Singapore’s Industrial Robot Startups Eye Global Markets


32. MRANTI Addresses Malaysia’s Shift to Become Technology Producer


38. Precision Meets Durability: The Role of igus® in Enhancing Akribis Systems.


42. Interview with Alan Fam, CEO, KUKA Malaysia & Regional CEO, KUKA APeC (Asia Pacific except China)


48. Why the Term Industry 5.0 is Controversial

50. Spotlight: Seizing the Crown in the Global Semiconductor Race

54. 5G/Wi-Fi, IT/OT in Industry 4.0 – It’s All Way Too Simplistic, Says Cisco

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 6
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Hai Robotics Opens New Headquarters in S’pore, Will Expand Hiring

Chinese technology company Hai Robotics unveiled its new headquarters here on April 30.

The 7,700 sq ft facility in Braddell, which is more than twice the size of its previous office, will serve as Hai Robotics’ Southeast Asia headquarters.

It will also double as a demonstration center to showcase the company’s latest warehouse automation solution – the HaiPick Systems.

Hai Robotics declined to disclose the cost of the facility, which has 12 employees currently.

The firm said it intends to hire for roles in engineering and product management soon, but this will depend on its financial performance in the current quarter.

The Shenzhen-based company’s previous demonstration center in Singapore was housed at the Republic Polytechnic Innovation Centre.

Mr Nathan Zeng, Hai Robotics’ Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand president, said at the opening on April 30 that the company has seen an uptick in the movement of supply chains to the Southeast Asia region.

He added that the firm’s decision in expanding its headquarters here is due to the Republic’s sound infrastructure, pro-business policies and existing tech ecosystem.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 8
The 7,700 sq ft facility in Braddell will serve as Hai Robotics’ South-east Asia headquarters. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

He told The Straits Times: “We see strong business demand here in Singapore, which is the hub of South-east Asia.

“A lot of our clients, some of which are Fortune 500 companies, have a presence in Singapore, and therefore it’s good for us to have a local team here.”

He added: “Singapore’s strategic position offers us easy access to key markets in the region as well as the chance to leverage the advanced infrastructure and skilled workforce it has to offer.”

Founded in 2016, Hai Robotics has 1,800 people working in 10 different locations worldwide.

Its core business is the manufacturing of autonomous vehicles specialized in transporting boxes in warehouses.

Hai Robotics’ core business is the manufacturing of autonomous vehicles specialized in transporting boxes in warehouses. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Hai Robotics states on its website that its warehouse automation solutions, which can be used in industries such as manufacturing, e-commerce and healthcare, can increase operational efficiency by up to 300 per cent and boost storage density by up to 400 per cent.

The firm’s clients include General Electric, DHL Supply Chain and Skechers.

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It is also currently working with 20 companies across South-east Asia to automate their warehouses, with the majority based in Thailand.

In 2022, Hai Robotics raised more than US$100 million (S$136 million) in a funding round led by Jintai Capital, with participation from Sequoia Capital and Source Code Capital, among others.

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KUKA’s Robots to Support High Productivity and Quality Manufacturing

The fascination with robots is evolving. One of the largest worldwide suppliers of intelligent automation solutions is German robot maker KUKA, whose robotics technology is now supporting a diverse range of industries in the Malaysian automation market.

KUKA’s capabilities and cutting-edge technologies are known for various applications such as palletizing, welding, machine tending, simple assembly, pick and place, as well as training cells.

Priding itself on having all the right robots in its portfolio, KUKA’s machines have allowed it to provide customers with robots for a range of applications, from small assemblies in the furniture industry to side panels for freight cars.

Its welding robots, for instance, are for customers in the central manufacturing sectors of the automotive and metalworking industries. Unlike a human workforce, the robots are automated to

complete complex welding tasks efficiently and furthermore, to implement them to perfection down to the tiniest weld seam with high system stability.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 10
(From left) Puchong MP Yeo Bee Yin, Midea Group vice president Andy Gu, Kuka Robotics HQ chief sales officer Erich Schober and Fam launching the Kuka Malaysia office. – PICS COURTESY OF KUKA The robots and coots are able to work in tandem, similar but also faster than traditional human workforce.

These robots visibly stand out for their significantly increased productivity due to integrated process steps, reduced cycle times and long maintenance intervals.

KUKA Asia-Pacific excluding China (APeC) regional CEO and KUKA Malaysia CEO Alan Fam said with KUKA’s intelligent automation products, productivity has been proven to rise, which in turn will affect profitability in the entire value chain.

The smart integration of its products into the digital and connected world of production does not stop at just the company’s welding robots, with KUKA having other robust and flexible robots suitable for a wide range of tasks.

Diverse portfolio

As much as the robots look like they are involved in heavy labor like welding and palletizing, KUKA has robots that are capable of handling tasks in the food and medical field.

Robots such as the KR Cybertech HO and KR Iontec HO have food compatible H1 lubricants in all axes, which allow the products to meet the high, stringent requirements of the food industry for hygienic handling.

Other robots, like the LBR Med, are capable of executing diagnostics and surgical interventions on patients. KUKA even has a range of robots developed for a variety of cleanroom applications.

Designed for environments that need the highest levels of cleanliness and the lowest levels of particle emission without sacrificing speed or performance, KUKA’s robots are reliable and fast enough to achieve high productivity and quality manufacturing for industries such as life sciences, healthcare, medical devices, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

These robots can be used even in confined workspaces, as they can be mounted on the floor, ceiling, wall and at an angle.

Industrial Internet of Things

With Industry 4.0 in full swing, established structures are on the way out, with cyber-physical production coming in at full force. Via its Malaysian business entity KUKA Robot Automation, the group seems well-prepared for

the change, with intelligent machines equipped with sensitivity and enhanced intelligence designed to work side by side with humans, while still operating more independently than before.

The fleet of products by KUKA are mobile, highly flexible and versatile for changing industries that are incorporating digital networking and autonomous adjustment to rapidly changing production requirements.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 11
Cobots like the LBR iisy is meant for all production areas, combining industrial automation with the flexibility and simplicity of an intelligent tool.

“It is easier to teach a cobot programming as compared to an industrial robot. It is also easier to integrate a cobot to any of the external devices. Because of these benefits, cobots are very popular and are used in many industries, such as automotive, manufacturing, electronics, warehousing and logistics,” said KUKA Robotics (APeC) senior business development manager Deric Chin at the launch of KUKA Malaysia office in Puchong last week.

A portmanteau of “collaborative robots”, cobots are another arm of KUKA’s products that are designed to work with humans in a shared space. Among many others, this splicing of value in both humans and robots is something KUKA sees that will drive growing productivity.

Both the robots and cobots by KUKA have made an indelible mark on companies that are using the products in Malaysia. A steel wire and wire mesh manufacturing company in Perak that uses KUKA’s products, Wei Dat Steel Wire, has witnessed the uptick in production firsthand.

“We are amazed by the performance of KUKA’s KR Quantec-2 robotic arm. With this automation in place, the entire steel wire bending process is faster and efficient. Previously, (we could) see 500 steel wire mesh bent in one day. It has now increased to 1,500 per day,” said an employee from Wei Dat.

KUKA is ready to support more Malaysian businesses to raise efficiency and automate operations as the country’s smart technology continues to grow.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 12 ORGANIZATION NEWS Source:
Kuka’s robots also use advanced imaging and AI to carry out tasks. Kuka has a big range of robots for palletizing, depalletizing and packaging applications.

National Robotics Programme Receiving $60m to Help Spur Robot Adoption in Industry

A total of $60 million will be invested in the National Robotics Programme (NRP) to develop robots and push more companies in the manufacturing, logistics and healthcare sectors to adopt robotics.

The NRP is a national platform that oversees the research and development (R&D) of robotics in Singapore. It is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and hosted by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

The investment, which was first announced during the Budget debate in March, aims to help Singapore nab a slice of the growing global robotics market, which is worth roughly $50 billion today and is estimated to grow beyond $60 billion by 2028, said the NRP on April 18.

The authorities aim to spur the adoption of robotics here through investment and encouraging collaboration to help research find a market, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan

at the opening of the new Kranji factory of Singapore-based robotics company Lionsbot on April 18.

The company is known for its floorcleaning robots – which trawl shopping malls, warehouses and schools – including its line of blue-eyed cleaners, LeoBots, which look like Eve from the Pixar animation movie Wall-E.

The $60 million fund will support the RoboCluster initiative, an R&D collaboration platform for the NRP to work with industries – starting with the facilities management sector – by offering forums, workshops and other platforms, backed by its network of researchers and experts.

It will soon extend to healthcare, logistics and other sectors, said Mr Tan.

Its first session will be held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design in July.

To start with, it will focus on researching and developing robots that specialize in cleaning building exteriors, which have not been as well adopted as floor-cleaning robots, said a spokesman for the NRP, adding that collaboration with industry players will help pinpoint ideas to invest in.

Mr Tan said: “The (RoboCluster) initiative is aimed to catalyze and foster stronger collaboration, and to translate R&D into enterprise.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 13
The robot testing area of Lionsbot’s robotics factory in Kranji Loop on April 18. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

“Many small and medium-sized enterprises may be interested in robotics, but they may not know how to adopt them, so that is something we need to discuss. In Lionsbot’s case, you can deploy the robots for cleaning. But can you do so for other aspects like food or facilities management?”

Mr Terence Teo, president of trade association Automations, said members have expressed concerns over a shortage of manpower, and that staff were often held down by mundane tasks, like inspections and toilet cleaning, which can be supported by robots.

“There is a lot of opportunity for robotics to play a part in the facilities management sector,” said Mr Teo, pointing to toiletcleaning robots and inspection bots that can check for defects in a facility and consolidate reports.

First formed in 2016, the NRP initially focused on robotics, but it has now ventured into R&D projects for standardized machines that are fit for a wide range of users, to drive adoption.

The $60 million investment will add to more than $450 million in funding that the NRF has poured into the robotics programme.

Recent projects backed by the NRP include robots that scout for rodent infestations in false ceilings and the use of drones to clean Gardens by the Bay’s Supertrees, tipped as a safer, more efficient way to clean large structures.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 14
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan (third from left) touring Lionsbot’s robot factory on April 18. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The quality control and robot assembly areas of the Lionsbot robot factory on April 18. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Lionsbot factory

Lionsbot’s $12 million factory in Kranji aims to quadruple the company’s production output compared with its older facility in Changi. It will develop robots, from assembly, testing phases and quality checks, to finally packaging them for delivery, all under the same roof.

The company said in a statement that the factory is the largest cleaning robot factory in South-east Asia, with an area of 5,000 sq m, or about the size of a football field. The facility comprises a warehouse to store robot components and a production area where employees assemble and calibrate the robots before sending them for deployment.

With the new plant, which has added 55 new roles to the company’s workforce, Lionsbot aims to manufacture up to 4,000 robots each year to deliver to its growing pool of clients across more than 30 markets. It estimates the new facility will drive up to $40 million in sales revenue annually.

Lionsbot chief executive Dylan Ng said the company aims to double its sales revenue to US$30 million (S$41 million) in 2024 and turn a profit by 2025, and added that the new facility is key to achieving this milestone.

The company is making headway into a new generation of smart robots that use artificial intelligence in decision-

making, such as planning the best times for cleaning based on the environment, without the need for humans to configure, said Mr Ng.

Among Lionsbot’s robots is the Rex series, its largest machines priced around US$80,000, which are designed to clean large venues like warehouses and malls, and can clean up to 100,000 sq ft per charge.

The company, which has around 200 employees worldwide, has sold more than 2,500 robots since 2018, and has expanded overseas to the Netherlands and the US, among other markets.


Taiwan’s SPIL Breaks Ground on RM6 Billion Semiconductor Plant in Penang

Semiconductor packaging and testing company Siliconware Precision Industries Co Ltd (SPIL) broke ground on its RM6 billion P1 plant to be built on eight hectares in Bandar Cassia Technology Park, Penang.

The plant is projected to create nearly 3,000 skilled jobs, introduce advanced packaging and testing technologies such as wafer bumping, and offer a comprehensive turnkey solution over the next 15 years, said a joint statement issued by the Taiwan-based company, Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) and InvestPenang.

“This initiative is expected to significantly reduce production cycles, enhancing efficiency and competitiveness in the semiconductor industry,” it said.

Investment, Trade and Industry Minister

Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the groundbreaking of this RM6 billion investment by SPIL validates Malaysia not only as a preferred destination for global semiconductor companies but also as a country that is serious about the swift implementation of investors’ commitments.

He said the National Semiconductor Strategic Task Force has been driving many key initiatives to attract and implement investments in this sector, supported by Mida’s expertise built over more than half a century.

“All these are key success factors for the New Industrial Master Plan 2030, which aims to increase economic complexity and forge stronger linkages between global

companies and local small and mediumsized enterprises while creating more skilled, higher-paying jobs for Malaysians.

“I am confident these initiatives will also help elevate our semiconductor sector’s position in the global value chain,” the minister said.

MIDA CEO Sikh Shamsul Ibrahim Sikh Abdul Majid said SPIL’s investment brings substantial advantages to Malaysia’s semiconductor industry.

“As one of the top 10 global outsourced semiconductor assembly and test companies, (SPIL) establishing this facility in Penang is a testament to the country’s formidable semiconductor ecosystem.

“This project will significantly enhance the country’s supply chain, particularly in the semiconductor industry, and create high-value job opportunities in engineering and technical fields for Malaysians,” he said.

Sikh Shamsul said it will also accelerate the export of made-in-Malaysia products globally, positioning Malaysia as a key player in the international semiconductor market and driving sustained economic growth.

Meanwhile, SPIL Malaysia CEO Michael Chang said the establishment of the P1 plant will foster innovation in Penang, establishing an advanced packaging and testing base, cultivating semiconductor talents, and enhancing technological capabilities.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 16
Source: The Penang plant is projected to create nearly 3,000 skilled jobs and introduce advanced packaging and testing technologies such as wafer bumping. – SPIL pic INDUSTRY NEWS

Tengku Zafrul: Miti, Malaysia

Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute

to Undertake Mid-Term Review of National Automotive Policy 2020

Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the review would take into account the rapid advancements in automotive technology, particularly in the realm of energy-efficient vehicles (EEV) and electric vehicles (EV). — Bernama pic

The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (Miti), together with Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), will be undertaking a mid-term review of the National Automotive Policy 2020 (NAP 2020).

Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the review would take into account the rapid advancements in automotive technology, particularly in the realm of energy-efficient vehicles (EEV) and electric vehicles (EV).

“The consultation process will be comprehensive, covering key stakeholders to address industry concerns and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

“Our goal is not only to stay relevant but also to strive for excellence in promoting a thriving Malaysian automotive ecosystem,” he said during the official launching of Malaysia Autoshow 2024 at MAEPS Serdang here today.

Tengku Zafrul highlighted that the ministry is also looking forward to the outcomes of initiatives, namely the National EV Project by Perodua, the EV production by Proton, and the development of the game-changing Automotive High-Tech Valley (ATHV) by DRB-Hicom.

“We have clear plans to help develop them into global champions.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 18

“Alongside endeavors by international brand manufacturers based here, I feel that the vision to make Malaysia an automotive export hub is highly achievable, (as this) will propel our automotive ecosystem to new heights,” he added.

Meanwhile, upon officially launching the Malaysia Autoshow 2024, Tengku Zafrul announced that the seventh edition of the automotive exhibition has been officially recognized as the country’s largest international auto show by the Malaysia Book of Records.

“This year’s auto show features one of the strongest line-ups ever, with more than 200 exhibitors showcasing more than 500 models.

“Notably, there is also a significant increase in the number of EV brands — for both passenger cars and two-wheelers,” the minister added.


Organized by MARii, Malaysia Autoshow 2024 opens its door to public patrons from May 22-26, 2024, and is expected to witness 45 car and bike launches, along with extended test drive and test ride routes and a dedicated 4x4 offroad track.

Among the highlights of the event is the showcase of key technologies that have emerged in line with the policy objectives, including the introduction of more affordable EV in the market, catering to both cars and motorcycles.

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Vibrant Semiconductor Industry Fortifies Malaysia’s Role as Reliable Regional Partner - PM

Malaysia’s vibrant semiconductor industry bolsters its position as a reliable regional partner in manufacturing, trade, and innovation, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

As the world’s sixth-largest exporter of semiconductors, he said Malaysia boasts a robust manufacturing base, particularly in the global electronics and electrical industry.

Speaking at the 29th International Conference on The Future of Asia, Anwar highlighted Malaysia’s appeal amidst escalating tensions and trade restrictions in microchips.

He said that with stability, skilled labor force and economic and geopolitical nonalignment, Malaysia stands as a safe haven for investors.

“The proof is in the numbers. In 2023, the state of Penang - where I came from... Malaysia’s semiconductor hub - attracted US$13 billion in FDI (foreign direct investment), exceeding the total for the previous seven years combined.

“We are setting our sights on the future through an increasingly strategic focus on front-end activities, such as wafer fabrication, the design of integrated circuits and advanced packaging,” he told about 300-strong forum participants.

Anwar also paid tribute to Japan’s role and support in Malaysia’s economic progress.

“Truth be told, this could not have been achieved without Japan and our other partners in the region. Etched in our memory is the humble beginnings in Penang during the 1970s, when companies, such as Clarion and Hitachi, were part of the “Eight Samurai” - the first wave of electrical and electronics products (E&E) manufacturing investment into the country.

“Active Japanese FDI has been a crucial factor in the success of Malaysia’s semiconductor industry, and this is true even today, with recent largescale investments coming in from Kaga Electronics and Ferrotec,” he said.

He added Japan and Malaysia shared a common vision for Asia’s future based on stability, connectivity and cooperation in support of a rules-based order, thus he is confident that both nations’ relations will only grow from strength to strength going forward.

“Prime Minister Kishida and I had two summit meetings in November and December, culminating in the upgrading of our bilateral relationship to

a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also expanded our cooperation into the realm of security, collaborating in the maritime security sphere,” he said.

Japan is Malaysia’s fourth-largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. In 2023, total trade between Malaysia and Japan was valued at RM156.64 billion (US$34.39 billion).

Meanwhile, Malaysia is continuing to build its capabilities in other sectors in line with our economic complexity trajectory into chemicals, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, the digital economy, electric vehicles, advanced materials and agro-based industries.

Anwar also highlighted Malaysia’s openness to trade and investment in manufacturing, services and the primary sector alike, evident in its FDI performance in 2023, which saw a 15 per cent increase compared to 2022, with approved foreign investments reaching RM188 billion.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 20
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Amazon Says Will Invest $9 Billion in Singapore

Amazon said it would invest US$9 billion in Singapore over the next four years to expand its cloud computing capabilities in the city.

The announcement comes after fellow tech titan Microsoft unveiled billions of dollars of investment in the same sectors in Southeast Asia last week as firms look to take advantage of growing demand in the region.

Amazon said the figure doubles its investment in the city-state and will help it meet growing demand for cloud services and adopt artificial intelligence.

“AWS (Amazon Web Services) is doubling down on its cloud infrastructure investments in Singapore from 2024 to 2028 to support customer demand, and help reinforce Singapore’s status as an attractive regional innovation launchpad…,” Priscilla Chong, Country Manager of Singapore for AWS, said.

Amazon said its investment will support some 12,000 jobs in Singaporean businesses each year.

It is also partnering with the Singapore government to help local businesses accelerate the adoption of AI.

The e-commerce titan last week said profit in the first three months of 2024 tripled as its cloud, ads, and retail businesses thrived.

The company founded by Jeff Bezos is also testing an AI chatbot named Rufus that provides shopping tips to US mobile app customers.

Meanwhile, generative AI features for sellers help them create product listings.

The company also plans to invest billions of dollars in AWS datacenters in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United States in coming years, according to the earnings release last week.

Tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft have been investing more in Southeast Asia recently.

Microsoft pledged US$2.2 billion in artificial intelligence and cloud computing investment in Malaysia.

That announcement came after tech chief Satya Nadella unveiled a US$1.7 bn investment in Indonesia, as well as Thailand’s first data center region.

The tiny but wealthy and infrastructurerich Singapore has become a business and technology center in Southeast Asia, further solidifying its status after the pandemic.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 22 INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Encouraging Awareness Of Cyber Immunity, Kaspersky Officially Joins Malaysia IoT Association

Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity company that was founded in 1997, has now officially joined as a member of the Malaysian Internet-of-Things Association (MyIoTA), with a mission to contribute to maintaining better cyber resilience from IoT companies in the region.

MyIoTA is a national-level organization founded by a group of individuals and private sector companies, as well as enthusiastic people involved in the IoT scope chain in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

In collaboration with the Malaysian Digital and Economy Corporation (MDEC), this association is driving the country’s digital economy, which aims to become Southeast Asia’s digital hub.

The company said that Kaspersky’s joining MyIoTA aims to help unite hundreds of organizations related to digitization and partner with other IoT associations in the region.

The hope is that they can interact with relevant local market players, unite understanding and needs in determining the most relevant solutions and technologies and are in demand by the market.

As a global cybersecurity company, Kaspersky also aims to share its technological vision with local companies and the IT community, as well as help more businesses in Southeast Asia take advantage of Kaspersky Cyber Immunity’s approach.

We welcome Kaspersky as part of membership and expand the ecosystem of IoT solutions and service providers in Malaysia. IoT cybersecurity is one of the main concerns and challenges, especially when IoT is a forum for many countries towards a fourth industrial revolution and digital economic growth. Kaspersky’s expertise in the field will be highly appreciated in the progress of this ecosystem,” said James Lai, chairman of the Malaysian IoT Association in a statement received by VOI in Jakarta.

In this collaboration, Kaspersky and MyIoTA have joined efforts to identify corporate pilot projects, cyber immunity solutions for Smart City, which will be based on Malaysia’s local IoT platform and Kaspersky IoT Secure Gateways.

The potential project will be developed alongside Adaptive Production Technology (APROTECH), a subsidiary of Kaspersky IioT, which provides IoT engineering and resources.

“Because the digital economy is one of the main flows of the national strategy, we believe our membership can bring good joint results to national leaders and the entire Southeast Asian region,” said KasperskyOS Business Unit Head Andrey Suvorov.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 24
Kaspersky’s collaboration with MyIoTA (photo: Kaspersky)

Kinéis, Semtech Partner to Integrate Satellite & Terrestrial IoT on Same Single Chip

Kinéis and Semtech make satellite connectivity more accessible for the Internet of Things (IoT) by reusing standard terrestrial solutions. This complementarity will enable millions of users to access global coverage simply and directly.

The easy integration of Kinéis’s spatial connectivity into Semtech’s chipsets.

Kineis and Semtech are proud to announce this strategic collaboration, which enables the integration of satellite and terrestrial IoT on the same single chip.

Kinéis is a French satellite operator and provider of global connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT), transmitting data to the end-user in near-real time, at low data rates (small messages), with very low energy consumption.

Semtech is a global provider of highperformance semiconductors, LoRa® and cellular IoT systems, and high-quality connectivity and cloud services.

Thanks to this collaboration, a user of Semtech LoRa Edge™ chips (including LR1110 and LR1120 chips) can now have global access to IoT connectivity by benefiting from Kinéis satellite connectivity, in addition to LoRaWAN® terrestrial connectivity, without adding additional electronic modules. This Kinéis-Semtech collaboration offers a simple way to implement hybrid terrestrial-satellite devices supporting multiple standard connectivity protocols.

In concrete terms, thanks to Semtech LR1110 chips, a user of terrestrial LoRaWAN IoT connectivity will be able to extend the functionalities of his uses to:

• Receive data via terrestrial LoRaWAN connectivity when available,

• Receive data via Kinéis satellite IoT connectivity from anywhere else,

• Receive location data complementary to GNSS information.

To enable partners using terrestrial IoT to access space connectivity, Kinéis

provides them with a reference design, an instruction manual for making an equivalent radio module.

The Kinéis-Semtech offer is eagerly awaited by the IoT ecosystem

Kinéis is a key player in the satellite-based IoT market, with the long-term viability sought after by its customers. Just four years after raising its historic 100 million euros in capital, the Toulouse-based company will deploy its constellation of 25 nanosatellites, Europe’s first dedicated IoT constellation, in the summer of 2024.

Semtech offer meets the expectations of users of the IoT solutions. Among them, Beepings, as a pilot partner, is delighted with this close collaboration between Kinéis and Semtech. Since 2017, Beepings has been developing autonomous and long lifespan durable solutions using the most innovative technologies, both in the subject of Indoor/Outdoor geolocation and data transmission for various external sensors.

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How Humanoid Robots Can Help Narrow Gaps Between Automation and Labor

The robotics industry has seen major growth and maturity in the past decade. Technology advances such as vision

systems and computing power, along with the rise of artificial intelligence, have helped the industry grow in many ways. Robots also are getting cheaper and more affordable. Robots are taking a greater role and improving automation in many ways, but are humanoid robots the next step?

Wise, chief product officer of  Agility Robotics, outlined why humanoids or mobile manipulation robots (MMRs), are the next step in her presentation “The Next Frontier of Automation: Mobile Manipulation Robots (Humanoid Robots)” at Automate 2024 in Chicago.

Innovation in robotics, which started in 1961 with the Unimation arm and continues to today, “has created highly specialized automation that has driven us to automate these workspaces,” she said.

While that’s great, there’s still a catch: People are needed to connect these islands of automation. Everything grinds to a halt otherwise.

“We still need a lot of people,” said Wise. She cited the statistic that there are more than 2.1 million  unfilled positions in manufacturing. It and other industries

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 26 ROBOTICS
Melonee Wise, chief product officer of Agility Robotics, outlined the benefits of mobile manipulation robots. | Source: Chris Vavra, WTWH Media LLC

have spent more money on automation, but the people part of the equation remains a sore point.

“That’s part of the reason why we’ve seen a continuing need for new automation technology,” Wise said.

Four steps for humanoid and MMR deployment

Wise said mobile manipulators can address the gaps between “islands of automation” and tackle workflows that need more flexible automation. They can be deployed in brownfield sites, can serve multiple purposes and expand in utility over time, and are quickly scalable.

“They’re the perfect partner for other existing automation technology like automated storage and retrieval systems [ASRS] and other autonomous mobile robot [AMR] technology,” Wise said.

MMRs or humanoids are useful in several different workflows because they’re generalizable, she noted. Users can move one robot skill to many different applications by manipulating the system so it can do what the user needs it to.

Such tasks include tote stacking, line feeding, AMR loading and unloading, and putwalls. They currently require humans to get objects from Point A to Point B,

MMRs offer several advantages such as easy deployment in brownfield sites and are quickly scalable. |

but an MMR can bridge that gap without disrupting production.

Like any new implementation in a factory — or any facility undergoing this kind of change — a solid plan needs to be in place. Wise highlighted four steps any company should take before bringing MMRs into their facility:

1. Gather valuable data during a site visit.

2. Assess the specified operating environment.

3. Design a deployment and adjust along the way.

4. Deploy the MMR in a safe and efficient manner.

Wise expressed the importance of safety, saying, “One of the next things we’ll see with MMRs is the real practical application of safety.”

That’s important because unlike a traditional robot, a mobile robot’s standard operating environment (SOE) is the entire facility. For a mobile robot, this can raise concerns about uneven surfaces, keep-out zones, object avoidance, lighting, and clearance.

However, Wise said an MMR can avoid these issues because humanoids are bipedal and have the technology and sensors to operate safely the way a person would.

MMRs might not yet be able to talk like C-3PO from Star Wars, but they’re definitely capable of bridging some of these labor gaps while creating a more automated and autonomous world to meet consumer needs.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 27

Malaysian Students Shine at International Robotics Tourney

Team Malaysia achieved great feat at the Borneo International Robot Championship (IRT) ‘Robomission Battle LEGO Education SPIKE Prime’, which concluded at Meritz Hotel here on Saturday.

The event involved 149 participants comprising students from Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Macau and Vietnam.

“Dedication, enthusiasm and sportsmanship are truly exemplary, and you have left an indelible mark on this event,” said Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah in his speech, which was read by the deputy minister Datuk Sebastian Ting at the closing ceremony.

The four-day programme was jointly organized by Sasbadi Learning Solution and SMK Chung Hua Miri, with the support of the Ministry of Education.

Malaysia dominated the ‘Elementary School’ and ‘Senior’ categories, where the respective winning teams were Super Hero from Penang, and ‘UP! UP! CHM 05’ (SMK Chung Hua [CF] Miri).

The runners-up were ‘Aichun IA’, ‘SJKCTH’ and ‘Kevin’s Fighter’ in the Elementary School’ category, and ‘HSBP Senior Neobot’, ‘Short Circuit’ and ‘CL Upper B’ in the ‘Senior’ category.

In the ‘Junior’ category, the top team was ‘OFDL RXT’ of Taiwan, while all runnersup were Malaysian teams: ‘HSBP 2’, AKTI Tiger’ and ‘CL Lower C’.

In the ‘RoboSports’, the grand title went to ‘UP! UP! CHM 07 (SMK Chung Hua [CF] Miri), with Taiwanese teams OFDL CPH and OFDL IDK placing respective first and second runners-up, and Malaysia’s SAKTI Pheonix at fourth place.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 28 ROBOTICS Source:
Ting (standing front, eighth right) and other guests join the officials in a group photo with the participants after the closing ceremony.
Automate Jun-Aug 2024

Singapore’s Industrial Robot Startups Eye Global Markets

Backed by government, hardware makers grow amid labor crunch

From autonomous floor cleaning to robotic arms in warehouses, Singaporebased robotics startups are expanding their production and research capacity to tap into Asian markets and beyond, targeting companies eager to address labor shortages.

Lionsbot, which makes cleaning robots, opened a new factory in the city-state’s northern Kranji district in April with an investment of $12 million Singapore dollars ($8.8 million), expanding its production line to 4,000 units a year, around five times the capacity of its previous production site. The company touts the factory as the largest in Southeast Asia for cleaning robots, hoping to accelerate its global expansion.

The plant “will help us in expanding our global footprint,” CEO Dylan Ng told reporters at the opening event last month. In addition to Asian markets like

Singapore and Japan, the company sells in the U.S. and Europe, where it set up local subsidiaries last year. Ng added that the company hopes to sell up to 2,000 units this year, doubling its annual revenue from a year ago to at least $30 million.

Founded in 2018, Lionsbot builds autonomous cleaning robots for small offices and large commercial and industrial settings, such as airports, warehouses, museums and hospitals. The company has four models selling for between $25,000 and $90,000. One of its more compact models, the R3 Scrub, is 81 centimeters tall, 60 cm long, 45 cm wide and weighs 60 kilograms.

Using high-precision sensors and AI systems, the robots are programmed to clean tight spaces and require only remote supervision. Cleaners can use mobile apps to control a fleet of dozens of robots on multiple floors simultaneously and receive

real-time updates on the robots’ progress. Lionsbot designed the robots from scratch with the help of Mohan Rajesh Elara, a professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Southeast Asia’s startup clusters, including Singapore, have long been known for digital consumer services like e-commerce and ride-hailing apps. However, the city-state is now trying to foster more cutting-edge hardware companies in collaboration with local researchers and universities. The goal is to create a hub for the robotics industry that will also draw overseas players.

In March, the government announced plans to invest an additional SG$60 million in the national robotics program, which encourages industrywide adoption and helps companies find markets for their products. The program has invested more than SG$450 million since 2016 in over 40 projects.

Eureka Robotics is another local startup targeting the global market. In April, the company announced a joint project with Japanese tire maker Bridgestone’s corporate venture arm to develop robotic arms for warehouses that can pick up various objects.

A spinoff from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, Eureka develops AI-powered controllers to automate industrial tasks with high precision, such as picking up fragile objects like optical lenses or small electronic components.

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Lionsbot, a developer of cleaning robots based in Singapore, has expanded its production capacity to 4,000 units a year. (Photo by Tsubasa Suruga)

The company’s strength lies in its core software and AI technology that can connect various robotics arms -- even those made by different manufacturers -using 3D cameras and sensors to perform specialized tasks.

“We provide the brain and the eyes for robotic arms,” CEO Pham Quang Cuong told Nikkei Asia. “Our strategy is to collaborate with hardware manufacturers, and sell them as an integrated system to other companies.”

In Asia, China is the leader in robotics hardware and it has the world’s largest fleet of industrial robots. In 2022, the country accounted for 52% of the 550,000 new industrial robots installed globally, according to the International Federation of Robotics, with its manufacturers enjoying vast economies of scale, and therefore lower costs.

Hai Robotics, a Shenzhen-based startup specializing in warehouse robots, is among the Chinese companies seeking to expand in Southeast Asia, a booming e-commerce and logistics market. The company recently opened a new regional

headquarters in Singapore, more than twice the size of its previous office.

Founded in 2016, its clients include Chinese automaker Geely, South Korea’s LG Group, U.S. industrial manufacturer GE and Danish shipping line Maersk.

In Southeast Asia, Hai Robotics said it received about 20 to 30 new project orders last year from local and multinational companies seeking to automate parcel handling. At a recent event, Nathan Zeng, the company’s head of regional markets, told Nikkei Asia the company is seeking to double the number of new projects this year.

Due to its higher operating costs, Singaporean robotics companies have a hard time competing with Chinese rivals on price. So local companies are targeting more developed markets like the U.S., Europe and Japan, where demand for automation is rising due to higher wages and staff shortages.

“In places like America, some of the customers are very concerned about data [breaches], so that helps us,” Lionsbot’s Ng said, adding that robots made in

Singapore have an edge in reliability as more countries prioritize data protection and cybersecurity.

“China’s supply chain and low cost are well established. It is very hard to compete with them by doing exactly the same,” Eureka CEO Pham Quang Cuong told Nikkei Asia. “Our specific AI technology allows us to differentiate ourselves.”

Industry watchers say overseas expansion is key for local startups like Lionsbot and Eureka. Kiran Mysore, a principal at the University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC), said Singapore serves as a “good testing ground” to refine and perfect their products, though market access remains “a significant challenge” for companies aiming to grow.

“Singaporean startups can achieve growth by collaborating with Japanese manufacturers, who already have a substantial presence in Southeast Asia,” Mysore told Nikkei Asia, “and potentially expanding into Japan, one of the world’s largest industrial robotics markets.”

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 31
Hai Robotics, a Shenzhen-based startup specializing in warehouse robots, opened a regional headquarters in Singapore to promote sales in Southeast Asia. (Hai Robotics)

MRANTI Addresses Malaysia’s Shift to Become Technology Producer

MALAYSIA is a developing nation when it comes to technology and innovation.

It owes its success to the pool of innovators, a combination of various sectors and their innovative solutions which propel the digital economy forward.

According to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), the digital economy is one of the fastestgrowing sectors in Malaysia, the recipient of an impressive US$15.7 billion (RM75.05 billion) of investment in the third quarter of 2022 (3Q22) alone.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint was unveiled in 2021 and the Digital Investment Office was established to pave the way for more investment in the digital economy.

The goal is to attract US$16.1 billion in digital investment by 2025 and for the sector to account for more than 22.5% of GDP.

To ensure a conducive environment for innovation and investment, the government has set regulatory frameworks to govern the digital economy.

With the growing awareness of technology in economic development, Malaysia’s digital evolution encompasses everything from robotics to artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology, blockchain and cybersecurity.

At the heart of its strategy, under the Science, Technology and Innovation

Ministry (MOSTI), the establishment of the Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI) as the forefront of innovation hub and onestop center for new emerging technology clusters is harnessing its full potential.

Rebranded in 2021, through the merger between Technology Park Malaysia and Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC-TPM), MRANTI is built to facilitate the process

of generating ideas to impact creation through invention, development and commercialization of technology and innovation.

Backed by a fusion of governmental initiatives, MRANTI is expediting its role in digital evolution encompasses robotics to AI, IoT, cloud technology, blockchain and cybersecurity across diverse industries to enhance efficiency, innovation and overall competitiveness.

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Malaysia’s digital evolution encompasses everything from robotics to AI, IoT, cloud technology, blockchain and cybersecurity

The MRANTI Makerlab serves as an innovator’s playground to create, experiment and realize ideas through the usage of new-age technologies, tools and facilities in a live environment

MRANTI Ecosystem and Park is built with the IR4.0 integrated infrastructure facilities, from the living labs and development center to prototype facilities, small and hyper-scale data centers for creators, innovators, researchers as well as the civil society.


MRANTI Makerslab is integral to the MRANTI innovation ecosystem, dedicated to advancing additive manufacturing technology in the era of IR4.0.

This 5,000 sq ft space serves as an innovator’s playground to create, experiment and realize ideas through the usage of new-age technologies, tools and facilities in a live environment.

It also offers seamless access to a diverse array of living labs including BioScience Tech Living Lab, Autonomous Vehicles Experimental Lab (AVXL) and the IR4.0 Smart Manufac- turing Living Lab (SMLL) and cutting-edge machines where innovators can experiment with their ideas with expert guidance and access to collaboration opportunity.


AVXL is an ultimate asphalt concrete test-bed to accelerate the AV technologies as such it provides a controlled area for safety and performance testing of AV through a combination of both controlled and real-world environments with a broad range of complex vehicles.

MRANTI Park is now the fourth approved public test route spanning over a 12km route with both indoor and outdoor inducing

features like a multi-story car park, roundabouts, T-junctions with traffic lights and zebra-crossing, and housing four research projects to date.


The IR4.0 SMLL is a living lab supporting tech-driven product development.

These include rapid prototyping to manufacturing workshops and labs with an IR4.0-integrated flexible manufacturing system (FMS) to be utilized as a shared test-bed by innovators.

It also provides a scaling up to the industrial production level facilitated by expertise from MRANTI Engineering and MRANTI Nexus.

DroneTech Living Lab: Area 57

Located on 2ha of land at Phase 3 of MRANTI Park, Area 57 is an infrastructure to catalyze the local DroneTech industry.

It provides an integrated infrastructure and facilities to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) innovators, developers and manufacturers to support them in each step of the drone development lifecycle from design and testing to the service and maintenance stage, all under one roof.

The drone development is also targeted to sectors such as logistics, agriculture, entertainment, sport and skill development.

It is hosting over 16 proof-of-concepts and conducted over 64 training sessions, empowering more than 200 participants in 2023.

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The MRANTI 5G Experience Centre (5GXC) Areas is the gateway to explore the transformative world of 5G showcasing the power and potential of 5G in a realworld application.

By engaging in the showcase areas, visitors will gain deeper insights into the world of 5G through expert presentations and knowledge sharing.

MRANTI 5G Lab with its comprehensive coverage and initiatives have helped create a thriving ecosystem for 5G development.

Addressing the Innovation Pinpoints

MRANTI is set to address the pinpoints of innovation and accelerate Malaysia’s shift from a technology consumer to a producer.

Its CEO Datuk Wira Rais Hussin said in realizing the mission, the focus is to accelerate demand-driven research and development (R&D) in technology to position Malaysia as an innovation

nucleus advancing toward a leading technology producer.

“Accelerating the demand-driven R&D in technology and innovation across the industries will also address national and global challenges,” he said at a media visit and tour to MRANTI Park Bukit Jalil.

During the tour, he emphasized that innovation must be focused on addressing the pain points of the nation.

“It should not be just for the sake of innovation but must consider the overall impact on the nation and the society.

“The focus has been more on input and output, rather than on the outcome and impact technology has on society,” he added.

In addition to innovation and technology, he emphasized MRANTI’s priority to address food security issues, brain drain and job placement challenges such as tech talent pools migrating to other countries in search of better opportunities.

“Food security is a big issue. The ministry has recently mandated us as an agency responsible to facilitate and address national food security using IR4.0 and we have been working very hard on it,” he said.

He added that innovation should and must address this issue as it enables a system for good food practices in terms of increasing yield and revenue while addressing food security.

On food security, MRANTI will learn from the framework of a country like Qatar, in enhancing its food security and domestic food production as it can produce a significant portion of its food.

These include investing in vertical farming and developing technologies that can enhance agricultural productivity or crop cultivation while acknowledging the vulnerability associated with relying heavily on food imports.

“The agricultural industry is one of the sectors that will benefit greatly from IR4.0.

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5GXC Areas
The MRANTI 5GXC allows visitors to gain deeper 5G insights through expert presentations and knowledge-sharing

“Through the power of IR4.0, it could manage the issue of safety and food security for the people in a more organized manner and reduce the pressure on the resources it owns,” he added.

Rais noted that even though Malaysia is the main consumer of rice, it can only produce around 70% of its domestic demand while the rest is imported.

Malaysia also relies heavily on imports for simple food products such as chillies and tomatoes.

The readiness of the talent pool for technology advancement is a critical factor in determining a country’s ability to embrace and leverage emerging technologies.

Despite that fact, Malaysia is losing intellectual capital and expertise where a significant number of tech talent, especially with the younger generations choosing to work and reside abroad.

“Brain drain is a big issue, we have lost 500,000 strongly trained skilled talent aged above 25 in the last 10 years, with fantastic skillset but imported seven million low-skilled workers into the country due to various reasons,” he said.

Realizing this, MRANTI is committed to playing a role in guiding the future of talents and will be looking into the “edutech” space.

Currently, there are more than two universities in the MRANTI Park which specialize in automotive engineering and AI robotics.

In terms of education and enhancing human capital, MRANTI is also finalizing several collaborations with a Chinese university for a knowledge transfer for a post-graduation programme in the area

of tech and innovation R&D including the nuclear sciences.

Data Centre Development

To thrive in a digital and datadriven era, data centers are integral to empowering businesses, start-ups and research institutions with the necessary infrastructure and computational resources.

MRANTI previously announced a collaboration with Asia Pacific data center solutions provider, Bridge Data Centers, to develop and expand its hyperscale data center campus, named MY03, which will offer a total IT power capacity of 64 megawatts (MW).

There are two phases to the expansion project. Phase 1 is scheduled to be ready for service with 16MW by 3Q25 while Phase 2 is set to begin operations in 4Q27.

This development strengthens MRANTI Park’s position as a leading technology

hub for the global community, promoting business success.

Beyond data center development, Rais also noted that MRANTI is committed to advancing AI through its center development into part of the MRANTI ecosystem.

Propelling The Drone Industry

Fulfilling its mandate to catalyze innovation adoption and create a future economy, MRANTI also spearheads drone tech development which involves a wide range of DroneTech ecosystem partners to ensure the industry achieves its full potential while maintaining national security and safety standards.

Malaysia’s agriculture and plantation sector especially has responded well to calls to innovate and drones can now be seen hovering over fields to support the new era of agriculture.

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With digitalization and drone’s clear detection and precision, it has the potential to lessen corruption and leakage, Rais says

Integrating the demand with smart farming technologies such as IoT sensors and data analytics to enhance the capabilities of drones, MRANTI is paving the way for aerial innovation through its programmes and infrastructure.

It has also developed a comprehensive strategy and initiative through programmes such as 3Ps: Programme, Partnership and Park, and the Malaysia Drone Technology Action Plan 20222030 (MDTAP30) framework.

The action plan also aims to provide air mobility solutions as sustainable and costeffective alternative transportation as well as provide robust smart city solutions for drone operations in urban areas.

“Drone is definitely an area we are looking at and it can go beyond just the agriculture ecosystem.

“With digitalization and drone’s clear detection and precision, it also has the potential to lessen corruption and leakage,” Rais said.

MRANTI has also been positive in laying the foundation to address the challenges relating to regulatory intervention; required policy updates; process integration and alignment of ministries, agencies, authorities and industry players to ensure a viable and profitable growth path among local drone players.

It is estimated that there are currently over 110,000 drone units registered in Malaysia.

Drone operators in Malaysia are regulated by several government agencies, regulatory bodies and authorities including Standard and Industrial Research Malaysia, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Department of Survey and Mapping while the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) is in charge of issuing approval.

For aspiring innovators and disruptors, MRANTI Park is a venue for them to go and turn their ideas into creations.

Its broad access to the network enables creators to nurture ideas into industry-changing solutions and commercialization.

Among other key focus areas for technological innovation are robotics, AVs, health tech, 5G technologies, sustainability and IR4.0 technology.

MRANTI is also undergoing a rebranding exercise to broaden its impact which will be announced soon.

“The government has agreed that we need to upgrade, and for that, there is some allocation and we are still discussing

how it will be dispersed,” Rais said.

MRANTI is expected to sustain a constant upward trajectory with revenue and EBITDA growth of 40%-45%, respectively, this year and accelerate the technology commercialization rate to 20% by 2025.

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The agricultural industry is one of the sectors that will benefit greatly from IR4.0, allowing it to manage the issue of safety and food security for the people in a more organized manner

Precision Meets Durability: The Role of igus® in Enhancing Akribis Systems.

Akribis Systems, founded in Singapore in 2004, is a motion control company that provides high-precision direct- drive motors. They construct products for a range of industries, including renewable energy, semiconductor, communication, biomedical, robotics, and any industry that requires precise motion. Akribis produces direct-drive motors with a high force density and patented coil design that decreases cogging. Additionally, Akribis offers linear and rotary motors that are also available with stages.

More than simply a manufacturer, Akribis stands out as a pioneer with 44 patents, reflecting their commitment to innovation in magnetics and engineering. With custom design capabilities and a global presence, Akribis Systems is a testament to the precision that drives progress.

Clement See (CS): How did the partnership between Akribis Systems and igus® start?

According to Mr. Kenny Tan (KT), Assistant Vice President of Sales & Application in Akribis Systems, mention it’s started in 2017 after recognizing the importance of reliable cable management in precision systems, Akribis sought a partnership with igus®, a company renowned for its expertise in this area. This collaboration has allowed us to offer comprehensive solutions to our customers, ensuring the highest standards of quality and performance in our products.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 38 TECHNOLOGY & PRODUCT NEWS
Caption: Akribis DGL-XY Stacked Stages with igus® e-chain®

CS: Could you describe how and in what capacity you are using igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables? This includes any specific functions or processes where these products are crucial.

KT: In our facility, the igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables play a pivotal role in the management of cables within Akribis precision stages. These stages require precise movements, and the energy chain ensures that the cables do not become tangled or obstruct the stage’s operations. The chainflex® cables, known for their durability and flexibility, are essential for transmitting power and signals without interruption or interference, which is critical for maintaining the accuracy and efficiency of our processes.

CS: What were the primary performance metrics or operational issues that influenced your decision to select igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables?

KT: The decisive factors for choosing igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables

were their availability in small quantities and the reasonable lead times. In our industry, where we often deal with highmix, low-volume, or prototype designs, the flexibility to order exactly what we need without excessive wait times is crucial. This allows us to be agile and responsive in our manufacturing processes, ensuring that we can meet our project timelines and reduce the risk of delays. Additionally, the reliability and durability of these components mean we can trust them in a variety of operational

conditions, which is essential for the success of our applications.

CS: How do igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables compare to previous solutions in terms of efficiency, reliability, and overall machine lifespan?

KT: The igus® energy chain and chainflex® cables have shown remarkable reliability and durability, particularly in precision stage applications. Notably, in cleanroom

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 39
Caption: Akribis DGL Series with igus® e-chain® & chainflex® Caption: Akribis DGH Series with igus® e-chain® & chainflex®

Caption: igus® 4 years cable guarantee

environments, the e-skin® flat series stands out by offering a more accessible cable management solution. This is especially advantageous when dealing with small quantities or prototypes, where traditional customized clean flat cables may not be as feasible.

CS: Have you encountered any challenges in integrating igus® products?

KT: Yes, the primary challenges involved space constraints and the need for a smaller bending radius. To address these issue we collaborated closely with igus® to

devise alternative layouts. For instance, we explored options that allowed for a greater width while accommodating a smaller bending radius, which successfully fit into the available space. This collaborative approach was key in overcoming the integration challenges.

CS: Looking ahead, do you have plans to expand the use of igus® products to other applications within your operations?

KT: We will continue to utilize igus® products where they are the most suitable choice and where the design flexibility

and low MOQ is an advantage. For contamination- sensitive applications such as systems that operate in high vacuum, we tend to err on the side of tried and tested monolithic flat cable solutions due to their history of use in the most demanding applications.

Currently, igus provides a 4-year guarantee to its cables and cable chains. For more information, visit the igus cable management solution at their website:

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 40
TECHNOLOGY & PRODUCT NEWS Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates 4-7 November 2024 Abu Dhabi, UAE Secure your complementary visitor pass: Register as a Delegate Join the world’s largest energy event Exhibition 184,000+ 2,200+ Attendees Exhibiting companies 30 Country pavilions 54 NOCs, IOCs, NECs & IECs Conference 16,500 Conference delegates 1,600+ Conference speakers 10 Conferences 350+ Conference sessions Uniting industries to accelerate the energy transition Partners Supported by Platinum sponsors ADIPEC brought to you by Technical Conference organised by Official travel partner Host city Official hotel partner Sport & recreation partner Venue partner Official media partner Gold sponsors CMYK Master Stacked ARAB DEVELOPMENT Pant Medium

Interview with KUKA Robot Automation (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd

Alan Fam

CEO, KUKA Malaysia & Regional CEO, KUKA APeC (Asia Pacific except China)

Alan Fam brings a wealth of experience to his role as Chief Regional Officer at KUKA Robotics APeC, with a career spanning over 22 years across various esteemed organizations. Beginning at Bridgestone in Japan, Alan honed his skills and gained valuable international exposure before transitioning to Atlas Copco. There, he held pivotal roles including Global Business Manager (Electronics Segment) in China and SEA Regional Business Manager in Thailand. Alan’s exceptional leadership was further showcased during his tenure at DESTACO, where he served as Regional Sales & Service Director, driving operational excellence and client satisfaction.

Throughout his career, Alan’s strategic vision and innovation approach have been instrumental in propelling growth and fostering partnerships across the APeC region. From Australia to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, India and Pakistan, Alan’s commitment to excellence and passion for driving transformative change continue to shape the trajectory of KUKA Robotics in one of the world’s most dynamic markets.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 42

1. Congratulations on the KUKA Malaysia Grand Opening. Can you provide an overview of KUKA Robotics’ history what is KUKA’s vision for the future of robotics in Malaysia?

Kuka Robot Automation is a company originating from Germany. We have been in the industry for more than 125 years. Last year marked our 125th anniversary and approximately 50 years ago, we created one of the world’s first industrial robots. We also developed one of the world’s first collaborative robots around 10 to 12 years ago. This year is our 25th anniversary in Malaysia. We have been here since 1999. We started as a small office in Malaysia and became a regional office in 2011, roughly 10 years ago. Our goal is to be the clear choice for smart automation, which means we cannot be a niche player. We want it to be the clear choice for smart automation, and we will be a volume

player by offering customers products and software services. This includes pre-sale service, selecting the right robot through simulation, after-sales service, warranty repair, and commissioning the robot at the customer site.

2. What are some key industries in Malaysia that benefit most from KUKA’s robotics solutions?

KUKA has been involved in multiple industries in Malaysia. Globally, we are very active in automotive sector. We work with customers in Germany, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Tesla and others. We support automotive industries in every aspect of their business. We are also involved in the electronics industry in Asia, with Samsung being a key customer. In Europe, companies like Bosch and other semiconductor manufacturers also use KUKA. Additionally, we are involved

in general industry, particularly in palletizing. Robots help customers place their products on pallets, which are then transported to other locations. This brings improvements to the factory process.

We also work with multiple system integrators, primarily KUKA official system partners. As a standard component company in the automation process, we are part of the entire automation solution. The system integrator typically bundles all these components into a single solution for the end customers. Last year, we received one of the top five best vendor awards from Proton. Electronics customers also use a lot of robotics, and we support these key customers in Malaysia.

We are also involved in the education sector, aiming to supply our robots to universities and vocational schools so they can teach their students.

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3. In your opinion, what unique challenges or opportunities does the Malaysian market present for robotics adoption?

I wouldn’t say challenges, as I see a lot of opportunities for the Malaysian market. Number one, due to decoupling, the US-China trade war has positioned Malaysia as an attractive market for investment across multiple industries. There is also a lot of de-risking from enduser customers from United States (US) and also European customers. Due to the exercise, they are thinking to manufacture their products in Malaysia. There are numerous good initiatives, as we observe substantial investment from overseas. Malaysia serves as a hub for foreign direct investments in Southeast Asia. Notably, companies like Infineon and Bosch are investing here, with some of them also venturing into data center investments. All those key sector industries require automation especially robotics. There are

plenty of opportunities in Malaysia, not solely due to the US-China trade war. The weak Malaysia currency in the region makes investment significantly more attractive for foreign direct investment. This presents a positive outlook for Malaysia, especially considering our abundant talent pool in engineering, with

the ability to speak multiple languages. It’s the multilingual proficiency of Malaysians that can support the industry’s growth.

4. How does KUKA ensure that its robotics solutions are adapted to meet the specific needs of the customers?

We pride ourselves these days on having a huge wide spectrum of portfolios. In the past 50 years ago, KUKA came from the automotive industry in Germany. As time goes on, we are now in electronics and general industry, KUKA offers a wide variety of products across all industries, ranging from small payload robots to high payload robots. In addition to our sixaxis robots, we also provide autonomous mobile robotics (AMR), scara robots and delta robots.

We have just launched our 2nd generation cobot called LBR iisy as well. In essence, we provide a comprehensive robotic solution encompassing hardware, software, and services.

We meet customer needs through several means. Firstly, we offer a vast array of products in the market. Secondly, we provide services. This is an essential part of the solution to ensure that the

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 44

customer chooses the right product for their application. After selecting and configuring the appropriate application, we ensure proper servicing and installation. Sometimes, customers require Wi-Fi extension and modernization, so customization is necessary as each product varies. Last but not least is education. We provide education not only to our own team but also to our customers. We train our customers to feel comfortable and confident with our products in KUKA College. Through training courses in KUKA College, we share our knowledge and expertise with them, ensuring they know how to utilize the robot effectively.

5. How does KUKA prioritize sustainability and responsible manufacturing in its robotics solutions?

We believe at the core that when we are not a niche player, we are a difference maker in the industry for automation. Customers can enjoy sustainability and sustainable benefits, by using robotic arms of our services. And how does it work? In that sense, we believe in going towards this vision statement. Our mission is to ensure that our customers have an easier and safer work life. Imagine an operator placing screws one by one and monitoring every day, versus simply pushing a button to automate the process. Similarly, consider the physical strain of carrying large boxes and pallets daily, compared to the ease of pressing an automated button. By utilizing robots, safety is ensured. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our business thrived as customers sought to ensure social distancing and maintain production. Consequently, there was a surge in the utilization of robots in the market to enhance customer safety. Another aspect of sustainability involves providing services to ensure customers are using the right products correctly. When automating and utilizing robotic arms, we can also collect data on the robots’ performance, including uptime, speed, and power consumption, among others. This data not only supports sustainability requirements but also provides valuable insights that helps to minimize unplanned down time, accurate fault analysis and efficient troubleshooting as well.

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One of the things we are striving for is greater sustainability through reducing, reusing, and recycling. Recycling is a key element that we are trying to implement in some countries. We are currently considering whether to offer used robots or use recycled materials in our products. I believe that this approach can save customers costs and also ensure sustainability.

6. Share with us the upcoming initiatives or projects that KUKA Robotics is pursuing in Malaysia.

One of our main priorities is establishing this new office. Its presence will enable us to better serve our customers by being in closer proximity to them. As

our business grows to a sustainable level, we aim to expand further with additional branch offices, enhancing our accessibility to customers and boosting our sales potential. Additionally, investing in customer service, along with service engineers dedicated to maintaining our robots, is crucial. We also plan to increase our team of customer service engineers to handle the installation and servicing of robots for our customers. We are also aiming to establish close collaborations with our official system integrators, who are loyal partners, to deliver the best automation solutions across the automotive, electronics, and general industries. This will be a key strategy for us.

The most crucial aspect of our business is our people. We prioritize retaining, developing, and nurturing our employees to foster a sense of belonging within KUKA and to better serve our customers.

We welcome top talent in the market to consider joining the KUKA family, including skilled salespersons, service personnel, marketing experts, and finance professionals. Our objective is to provide professional and unwavering support to our customers. Ensuring that our team remains motivated and competent is of utmost importance. It is our responsibility to assemble the best possible team to serve the Malaysian market.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 46
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Why the Term Industry 5.0 is Controversial

Do we need the term Industry 5.0? Is it perhaps even misleading and could jeopardize companies and cooperations in the implementation of Industry 4.0? Two associations think so.

Industry 5.0 puts people at the center. But is this term even necessary?

The term Industry 4.0 is now 13 years old. It was invented by former SAP CEO Henning Kagermann, the former CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Wolfgang Wahlster, and Wolf-Dieter Lukas, Head of Department and later State Secretary at the Federal

Ministry of Education and Research. The public first heard about Industry 4.0 at the Hannover Messe 2011, where the term was used to express the need to usher in a fourth industrial revolution - after water and steam power, mass production using assembly lines and electrical energy, and the use of electronics and information technology. As a result, the term has become established and Industry 4.0 is taking place.

However, a new, related term is now doing the rounds, Industry 5.0, which Birgit Vogel-Heuser and Klaus Bengler from the Technical University of

Munich explain by saying that industrial automation is facing a paradigm shift towards a more collaborative and humancentered approach. According to the two professors, human skills will remain central in the future. Specifically: the training of robots through human demonstration, the development of business models based on the principle of production-asa-service, the planning and development of agile manufacturing environments, the planning of complex production environments and cooperation between science and industry.

Criticism of the Term Industry 5.0

However, the term has only met with limited approval. The Industry 4.0 Research Advisory Council and the Industry 4.0 platform recently even felt compelled to issue a critical statement on the use of the term Industry 5.0 at the start of the Hannover Messe 2024. It states that the industrial vision conveyed by Industry 4.0 is still highly topical. The use of the term Industry 5.0 is frivolous and unnecessary. It does not express any new content. What’s more, it creates uncertainty. Industry 4.0 already encompasses all areas of society - and therefore also human-centeredness.

Another point of criticism is that the term Industry 4.0 stands for the fourth industrial revolution, which, like all previous revolutions, will take a long time to be fully implemented. This includes the use of new technologies and value creation models involving the people involved. The typical software abbreviation 4.0

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symbolizes the importance of software in this process, but should not be understood as a version number and replaced by 5.0.

“The Term Industry 5.0 Confuses and Unsettles”

“The fourth industrial revolution - i.e. Industry 4.0 - encompasses a wide range of aspects,” explains Peter Liggesmeyer from Fraunhofer IESE, who is also the scientific spokesperson on the Industry 4.0 Research Advisory Board. “The content that is currently being discussed as Industry 5.0 is fully included in it. There is therefore a risk that the unnecessary term will lead to confusion.”

Harald Schöning, Vice President Research at Software AG and industry spokesperson on the Industry 4.0 Research Advisory Board, replies: “Small and medium-sized companies are now also aware of the importance of Industry 4.0.” Implementation has also begun there. These companies are confused and unsettled by the term Industry 5.0. “They must not lose momentum on their way to Industry 4.0 as a result.”

Industry 4.0 is Not Yet Complete

Meanwhile, the Industry 4.0 Research Advisory Board and the Industry 4.0 Platform also state in their statement that the desire to design work processes in the best possible way for people, together with the best possible support in the new production processes, cannot be criticized. However, this does not require a new term. Ultimately, Industry 4.0 is anything but complete. Companies and international cooperations are in the middle of implementing it.

The view of the Industry 4.0 Research Advisory Council and the Industry 4.0 Platform cannot be dismissed out of hand. Nevertheless, the term Industry 5.0

could replace the term Industry 4.0. It has long been established in political circles, as evidenced by a European Commission document over three years old entitled “Industry 5.0: Towards a Sustainable, Human-centric, and Resilient European Industry”. It states that the vision for the future of European industry under the name Industry 5.0 complements the existing concept of Industry 4.0 by going beyond the goals of growth and job creation to also respect social goals such as the well-being of workers and planetary boundaries in terms of sustainability and placing them at the center of the production process.

Ultimately, the dispute is probably about terminology. Only time will tell whether we will still be talking about Industry 4.0 in the future, or whether the industry is already in the midst of a fifth revolution.

The above comments and opinions in the article are the author’s own own and do not necessarily represent Automate Asia Magazine’s view

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 49

Spotlight: Seizing the Crown in the Global Semiconductor Race

At the recent soft launch of the KL20 Summit 2024, Minister of Economy Rafizi Ramli said chasing unicorns is a “policy of the past”. Indeed. In fact, Malaysia has long been a unicorn breeder — in the semiconductor space.

To illustrate, JP Morgan reports that the country hosts semiconductor companies valued at RM13 billion — dominating the market with about 72% of all ringgitdenominated listed unicorns in Asean — with a combined market capitalization of RM56.5 billion. Start-ups in their own right at some point in their life cycles, these are fast-growing, profit-generating companies that are competing in an over US$500 billion (RM2.36 trillion) global industry. Not too shabby for the motherland.

As Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz mentioned, “Malaysia achieved a historic high in approved investments of RM329.5 billion in 2023, a 23% increase from the previous year, with foreign investments constituting 57.2% of the

total.” The strategic “China Plus One” approach has attracted multinational corporations to Malaysia as an alternative production hub.

This is largely thanks to Malaysia’s five decades of “back-end” semiconductor manufacturing experience, giving the industry a well-established infrastructure to continue to proliferate, with most of the activities concentrated in Penang.

Today, Malaysia has a 13% share of the global market for chip packaging, assembly and testing services, according to the findings of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority. Amid global chip demand weakness, exports of semiconductor devices and integrated circuits (ICs) from Malaysia increased by 0.03% to RM387.45 billion in 2023.

From 2015 to 2022, Malaysia’s electrical and electronic (E&E) sector, which is largely dominated by the semiconductor space, contributed nearly RM458.3 billion to the country’s GDP and about 39% to the national export earnings. As a

result, the country has grown into one of the world’s top five exporters of ICs and semiconductor devices.

More significantly, the export levels of E&E and ICs have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% and 16% respectively in the last five years — numbers not to be scoffed at — while boasting the highest rates in Southeast Asia.

With the ongoing geopolitical tensions between the US and China, Malaysia has begun to emerge on the radar screens of various stakeholders in the semiconductor industry. Well, positioned as a neutral party in this chip war, the country appears to be an ideal alternative destination for foreign manufacturers to set up shop outside of “rival” states.

This tailwind could possibly propel Malaysia into one of the top destinations, not just for investors but also for people, as the industry would, no doubt, serve as a major catalyst for economic growth, skilled employment opportunities and more.

Such catalytic growth was evident in the 1970s, when American chip giant Intel (back then more similar to a startup) chose to set up its assembly plant in Penang, which created thousands of job opportunities for the locals. The move was followed by other global players such as AMD, Hitachi and HP. These companies subsequently produced amazing local talents that went on to set up their own semiconductor businesses, such as the recently listed Oppstar Bhd.

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first appeared in Digital
Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on May 27, 2024June 2, 2024

The arrival of generative artificial intelligence applications, forecast to add up to US$4.4 trillion annually to the global economy, according to McKinsey, has only compounded the tailwind as the space requires almost an unlimited supply of computation power to keep up with the soaring demand, thus driving an unprecedented boom in the semiconductor industry.

Add to that the fast-growing electric vehicle (EV) market, which is expected to triple to US$1.6 billion by 2030, where the evolution from mechanical vehicles to EVs compounds the global need for ICs.

In theory, with most of the pieces in place, Malaysia should be well poised to capitalize on these tailwinds. But it is no longer the 1970s and the country is not the only attractive option for stakeholders in the space. In the words of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.”

The regional semiconductor races

Malaysia is not the only one that seeks to propel itself as a global semiconductor hub.

Neighboring Southeast Asian nations are wasting no time in courting global semiconductor players to set up operations on their home ground. Vietnam, for instance, has pledged tax incentives and other perks to help develop the sector. More importantly, it is the top target for US CHIPS Act subsidies, which could be viewed by companies as a stamp of approval provided by the US government.

Thailand too is vying for a piece of the semiconductor pie. Like Malaysia, its E&E industry is one of its main foreign investment magnets. The country’s Board of Investment has earmarked capital to be invested in an upstream semiconductor factory to produce wafers — a move to strengthen its front-end game.

Thailand is also creating a domestic sector that unites suppliers and production lines for EVs. A domestic EV industry would give the country an advantage in attracting foreign investment since these vehicles are anticipated to contain more

semiconductor devices than petrolpowered ones.

Over the years, our next-door neighbor Singapore has built up capabilities in the front end, particularly wafer fabrication. Today, the island state is responsible for about 5% of the world’s wafer capacity.

While Malaysia has one of the most comprehensive and fastest-growing semiconductor ecosystems in the region, it has remained mostly a key player in assembly, testing and packaging activities, generally known as the back-end part of the entire supply chain.

There is nothing wrong with backend manufacturing, of course. But it contributes only 10% to the value of a finished semiconductor chip. With all the ongoing competition across the region, Malaysia risks losing its lead and importance in the semiconductor industry if it does not move up the supply chain.

But similar to raising a child, it requires a village — or in this case, every stakeholder — to do so.

In the past, Malaysia took steps to move up the semiconductor supply chain through the establishment of SilTerra in 1995, a company that focuses on IC fabrication. But the project, which cost the country a whopping RM5.5 billion, still failed to make a mark in the frontend industry due to insufficient volume production, which led to an inability to recover the high operating costs of the overall business.

SilTerra’s arduous journey highlighted that various stakeholder, not just the government, need to be involved in developing the front-end sector. Establishing a fabrication facility is only a small part of the equation in propelling the sector forward. Other areas, such as

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the early stages of innovation, prototype creation and testing and developing concepts, are equally important in the grand scheme of things.

But the pursuit is and will be a costly one.

Securing capital and writing the right narrative

Recent research by RHB Investment Bank noted that the path towards developing high-value segments in the coming decade would suggest Malaysia needs to increase its foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to levels seen in East Asia development markets of around 15% to 20% of GDP, against the country’s 4.2% of GDP as at 2022 (that’s about RM64 billion for anyone not doing the maths).

A huge undertaking but definitely not impossible.

The Malaysian government is ramping up its engine through the establishment of a National Semiconductor Strategic Task Force to look at incentives, talent and ecosystems that could drive the industry forward. On capital involvement, government-linked funds such as Permodalan Nasional Bhd, the Employees Provident Fund and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) recently made a RM2 billion investment in ams Osram AG’s Malaysian operations.

It is common for the public sector to play a catalytic role in spurring involvement from the private sector. But it is extremely crucial that Malaysia gets its narrative right this time.

The country needs to play on its strengths, that not only does it have a solid back-end ecosystem that can support front-end activities but it is also a viable destination for investors — foreign and domestic — to place their bets here with a clear set of exit options.

SilTerra struggled because Khazanah Nasional Bhd was the only core pillar funding it and there were only so many losses and risks that the sovereign wealth fund could stomach. Arguably, as any sovereign wealth fund should be a staunch protector and harvester of any national proceeds, Malaysia needs to diversify its risk with foreign investors. Tax incentives and subsidies are some of the ways to lure in foreign capital — one of the many first steps of the movement — although there is a natural floor to any natural tax policies globally (that is 100%). Viable exit options matter more in the long run as investors need to generate returns.

Based on this context, venture capitalists are well positioned to capitalize on this development due to their relatively higher risk appetite.

While the semiconductor space is deemed less “in” than pure tech companies, it potentially does boast “tech-like” gross margins. Malaysian semiconductor companies such as Unisem (M) Bhd and KESM Industries Bhd are generating margins of 63% and 83% respectively and on top of that, they remain consistently profitable. These companies may no longer be deemed start-ups but they have been through the journey of one: starting

up, scaling growth, eventually achieving profitability and listing their operations on Bursa Malaysia.

One of those that have captured such nuance is the recently announced US$200 million BlueChip VC Sdn Bhd cofounded by Datuk Lai Pin Yong, a former engineer for Intel’s Penang facility back in the 1970s who then went on to build a successful career in the semiconductor industry. The fund is targeting upstream activities, specifically IC design, advanced packaging and niche equipment.

Efforts are being made, but do they suffice? For a once-in-a-lifetime global opportunity, probably not.

Malaysia has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, leads in the semiconductor manufacturing sector in the world. It is now time to capitalize on the solid foundation that we have built over the last 50 years to thrust the nation forward or risk being left behind in an increasingly competitive world. In the immortal words of George R R Martin (specifically for the character Cersei Lannister), “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

It is now or never.

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5G/Wi-Fi, IT/OT in Industry 4.0 –

It’s All Way Too Simplistic, Says Cisco

It seems like you can have the same conversation about Industry 4.0 whether AI is presented as the big kahuna in the tech-mix or hardly mentioned at all, like the elephant in the room. This conversation with Cisco, taped a couple of months ago at MWC, where talk about Industry 4.0 mostly focused on (private) 5G, but only transcribed this week after Hannover Messe, where it was all about (industrial) AI, followed the second course. But the conclusion is the same: that the network pipes don’t matter so long as they keep the data flow, and that they may well be replaced and reordered to feed the new AI data-hydrant.

But the real line from Cisco is that, for enterprises, all the different Industry 4.0 taps should work the same, and be

managed as one. “We have no religion – to a fault, really,” says Vikas Butaney, senior vice president of multi-cloud networking and industrial IoT at Cisco. It is true; Cisco, which has “refactored” its public core LTE/5G proposition (“it’s not as simple as just shrinking it down”) for private networks, has a strong hand in non-cellular network technologies, too: Wi-Fi, of course, but Cisco was also an original pioneer in the LoRaWAN movement, and helped to develop 6LoWPAN, which became WiSUN.

It is offering the full complement, alongside short-range non-cellular IoT, in the form of BLE and Zigbee, and long-range cellular IoT, from LTE Cat2 upwards. Which none of its new rivals in the private LTE/5G space can do. Plus,

it has a commanding legacy IT-managed OT base in enterprises, too – mostly because of Wi-Fi, including  what-itcalls  ‘ultra-reliable Wi-Fi’ for dozers and diggers, and gantry cranes (presented, of course, as essential use cases for ‘ultrareliable’ private 5G), but also with all of these other non-cellular IoT technologies for battery-powered sensing and tracking devices.

“All the biggest automotive companies are our customers,” comments Butaney at MWC, and he races through a cast of unnamed enterprise customers in every hard-nosed industrial sector to explain the point that plumbing is plumbing, so long as it works. Cisco, of course, authored the original however-manybillion massive IoT forecast from however-

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 54

many-decades  ago (referenced needed), which pumped-up the whole market. As it stands, with 104 million cars on its ‘control center’ platform, it is in the top league for big-scale IoT – along with the likes of M2M veteran Vodafone (185 million) and meter specialist Itron (86 million) – and is probably out on its own when it is all added up.

Butaney says: “We’ve been active in the IoT space for 15 years or so, before I took the job, when Cisco saw, we were going to connect millions and billions of things – in addition to human beings. And we started with industrial switches for companies like Rockwell to connect factory floors, and with technologies like 6LoWPAN for smart meters for companies like Itron.” More broadly, as the IoT discipline has expanded from low-power tracking and monitoring to higher-powered sensing and control for industrial automation, Cisco has reworked its mobile operator product as a private 5G offer for when enterprise Wi-Fi won’t cut it.

“The point is to be clear about the use case,” says Butaney. But there is crossover, too, and he makes clear that Wi-Fi is a nuanced technology, and that an engineered industrial version of stock Wi-Fi (“same frequency, same radio layer, same MAC, but with an MPLS overlay”) can work with a retrofitted client device to provide the right reliability and mobility for automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), for example. “Some of the biggest automotive companies are embedding that into their robots,” he says. Later, he specifies work with an Italian car maker, plus at mines, ports, and railways (Wi-Fi based “video surveillance at 200mph”).

“There is a diverse set of use cases. But customers have choices, too. Some say, ‘Look, I’m in mining, and I have to cover a hundred square miles, and I want cellular’. And that’s fine; we’ll do that. And cellular

sort-of has a unique space, certainly when you go outdoors, and want to cover lots of area with just a few radios. But it’s not exclusively cellular, either. And indoors, the conversation often goes the other way – like, ‘you already have a Wi-Fi network, and an ultra-reliable version is better because Wi-Fi is easier to manage and control’. But in the end, these are all just pipes, and they all have to co-exist. The thing is to deliver the outcome, and to make it secure and easy.”

Butaney – Industry 4.0, by case and customer

Which is the crux of the Cisco proposition in Industry 4.0. The firm has a problem of sorts with cellular, insofar as cellular works differently; it is too complex, for its liking. It needs to be simplified and integrated if enterprise IT teams are to manage and enterprise OT teams are to control cellular-connected devices, machines, and processes as part of their orchestrated smart-factory operations. “The licensed cellular space is incredibly complicated. I mean, it’s complicated for operators and it’s what they do for a living,” comments Bob Everson, senior director of mobile architecture and ecosystem for Cisco Systems, who is with Butaney in a backroom at MWC.

“Enterprises are like, ‘What is this whole 3GPP thing, because I don’t want to start going to meetings’. I mean, even SIM-based authentication, to secure and register a device on a network –because the enterprise wants to manage the cellular network in the same way it manages its existing assets, with the same policy and security infrastructure. There is lots of very sophisticated physics in the radio, but that part is going to be solved. The biggest barrier is how you integrate private cellular into the enterprise. And so, the simpler we make it, the less friction

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there is to adopt. And then it’s just a choice: licensed [public/private] cellular for this, unlicensed [Wi-Fi/IoT] for that.”

Butaney rejoins: “There are too many three- or four-letter tech acronyms out there; the IT administrator has a methodology to manage the network, and then this industry turns up with a new technology – with all-new authentication and management. Look, deploying on dayzero is one thing, but once a technology goes into a factory, it’s never coming out. And with cybersecurity top-of-mind, you have to be respectful; you can’t just talk about the tech. Some enterprises are really plugged into the 3GPP roadmap, but most don’t have the resources for all of that. They have a problem, and they want a way to solve it – without having to think too much.”

He adds: “Our approach is not just to be agnostic on the radio or the layer one / two stuff, but it’s the management and operations that we are focused on. It’s about unifying experiences, and bringing IT and OT teams together. This is the difference with Cisco. Because we have grown up in this space; we have the market

leadership for enterprise networks – from the smallest coffee shop to the biggest auto plant. We see what they’re doing from an IT point of view, and we are just trying to make their lives easier – because of the skills shortage, because of supply chain issues, because of cybersecurity. There’s so much for them to deal with, and so we just have to simplify.”

It is interesting because, of course, there is still a narrative in Industry 4.0 about IT and OT, as if they are targeted as parallel entities with distinctive influences in terms of the purchase, deployment, and management of critical edge infrastructure, but that they are converging around the same edge systems, and joined in pursuit of the same goals.  RCR Wireless suggests that Volkswagen was on stage at Hannover Messe last year, and said very clearly that private 5G needs to work like an enterprise IT network. “Yeah, that’s exactly right,” responds Butaney.  But that was Volkswagen IT speaking for Volkswagen OT on the shop floor, right?  It’s a jumbled question, but  is that the way?

Because the standard view is that Cisco is an IT company, like HPE, both of which would be expected to argue that IT is the buying center, even in hard-nosed OT industrial enterprises; and that companies like Rockwell and Siemens, say, are perceived as OT vendors, and might argue that OT, as the customer center (in practical terms), holds sway when it

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comes to deploying critical-grade edge infrastructure.  So, what gives?  Are those simplistic labels, which mean something in conversation, but don’t really mean much in business – because Volkswagen is a Cisco shop, or because it’s a Cisco shop in the office, and a Siemens shop on the floor?

I mean, is that IT/OT thing overplayed, or does one or the other rule the roost in Industry 4.0? “It’s way too simplistic,” responds Butaney. “Five years ago, all these manufacturers had bespoke architecture in every factory because the local factory person was doing it, and the board worried about consistency – impacting quality and agility, and so on. And when they introduced a new car, they wanted it to be the same in the US, Canada, Mexico, and all around


the world. So, IT helped to create the architecture. It’s not an IT network; it’s an IT architecture, standardized across their factories. Because of consistency, and also cybersecurity. But where IT lays it out, OT runs it.

“Because IT might not have staff on the floor, whereas there is a plant manager in every factory. So, it’s not like this old idea that IT/OT are going to come together. I don’t think that’s really right. Because our customers have expertise in a given job function, right? It is like me trying to tell a utility how to run a substation. That’s lifeand-death technology. Cisco’s heritage is in IT; but at the end of the day, we want to help customers solve a problem. I’m not going to out-Siemens Siemens. Siemens is very good at what it does. But we have a different value proposition. And CEOs are asking their CIO/CISOs to enable OT teams in factories – so they can unleash the power of AI.”

And there we are; it’s a conversation about industrial AI in the end (with 5G somewhere in the mix, maybe) – as enabled by IT, enabled by the likes of Cisco, to be managed by OT, enabled by the likes of Siemens. Which sounds, for the sake of argument, like IT rules the roost, but like OT lays the eggs. And that even if these functions remain separate, their relationship must be closer. What all of that means for the suppliers of networks, sensors, servers, software, and services in Industry 4.0 is for the reader to decide – or for another discussion, for another time.

Automate Jun-Aug 2024 57
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Whatsapp: (+60) 12 639 4271


SINGAPORE | Fireworks Trade Media Pte Ltd (HQ)

1 Scotts Road, #24-10, Shaw Centre Singapore 228208

Sales Hotline: (+65) 31351211


INDONESIA | PT Fireworks Indonesia

Jl. Suryopranoto No. 11F Kel. Petojo Selatan, Kec. Gambir Jakarta Pusat 10160

Tel: (+62-21) 5088 2917

Email: www.myintelligentmanufacturing. en.html

THAILAND | FBI Publications (Thailand)

Promphan 2 office & Residence, 8th Floor (Office Zone, Room 807)

1 Soi Lat Phrao 3, Lat Phrao Road, Jompol, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900

Tel: (+66) 2513 1418

Fax: (+66) 2513 1419


PHILIPPINES | Fireworks Trade Exhibitions and Conferences Philippines, Inc

U1207 12/F The Trade & Financial Tower, 32nd St. Cor. 7th Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Tel: (+63) 2 7902 0900

Sales Hotline: (+63) 2 927 704 0888


Automate Jun-Aug 2024 58
41 OBC 23 57 59 15 19 17 21 53 37 7 9 5 IFC 3 47 29 ADVERTISERS INDEX


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