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Marching to the beat of Industry 4.0
COME tomorrow, the halls of Singapore Expo will be abuzz with all that is "Industry 4.0" and the future of manufacturing, as the first Asia-Pacific edition of the iconic Hannover Messe tradeshow opens its doors to more than 10,000 participants.
The Industrial Transformation ASIA-PACIFIC (ITAP) - a Hannover Messe event organised by SingEx Exhibitions and Deutsche Messe, has been a year in the making. The two organisers inked a partnership agreement in November 2017, with the support of multiple Singapore government agencies - the Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore Tourism Board, A*Star and Enterprise Singapore.
The three-day event's ambition is to be the definitive trade platform for Asia-Pacific's manufacturing community, as it gears up for the inexorable march of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More than 260 exhibiting companies from 22 countries - global industrial automation heavyweights and startups alike - will showcase myriad technologies and solutions across an event space of 20,000 square metres.
Its conference component, meanwhile, will feature more than 100 international speakers from the public and private sectors, and academia. These include Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who will open the event, Phil Smith, chairman of Innovate UK, and Samuel Garcia, Procter & Gamble's vice-president for global consumer product supply.
But ITAP has been curated with a sharp regional slant and its organisers want the event's conversations to root global trends and ideas in Asia-Pacific realities.
A CURATED LEARNING JOURNEY
Hannover Messe, on which ITAP is modelled, started as an export fair in 1947 as part of Germany's post-war recovery efforts. Seventy years later, it is today a leading global trade show showcasing the best technologies in the world's production, energy and logistics industries.
While ITAP does adopt Hannover Messe's structure and nomenclature, it is unique in the way it "focuses specifically on the challenges and opportunities that industrial transformation creates in the Asia-Pacific", says Jochen Köckler, chief executive officer, Deutsche Messe AG. "With this new show in Singapore, we offer our customers a very specialised platform for growing their businesses and networks in a booming region," says Dr Köckler.
SingEx Holdings chief executive Aloysius Arlando says: "The economies in the Asia-Pacific are disparate and companies are at different levels of understanding and adoption (of Industry 4.0). Therefore, we have placed a high emphasis on education and learning, providing programmes to engage multiple stakeholders, and enable sharing of knowledge, experience and case studies."
This "Learning Journey" approach distinguishes ITAP, Mr Arlando says.
Visitors are asked questions when they register, to help organisers gauge how ready their companies are for Industry 4.0 and offer suggestions on how best to spend their time at ITAP. For instance, novices are led to case studies, recommended solution lists and explanatory sessions, while early adopters might gain more from in-depth discussions of concepts and solutions suited to their stage of adoption.
More than 50 industry-specific presentations will be delivered in more casual "Sandbox sessions" to spur discussion, while two "Learning Labs" on smart logistics and cobots (collaborative robots) will showcase technology in action. Some exhibitors will also host a series of visits to their advanced manufacturing facilities and innovation centres here in Singapore.
Mr Arlando believes it was "absolutely critical" that ITAP had the strong support of key stakeholders from the start. Leaders from government agencies, trade associations and other captains of industry, research and academia have lent their networks, insights and expertise to develop market-relevant content for the conference, he says. Not unlike the partnership needed for successful industrial transformation.
"As disruptive technology trends unfold rapidly across the manufacturing landscape, multi-stakeholder collaboration and co-innovation are the way forward to drive competitive advantages and unlock growth," says A*Star's Science and Engineering Research Council executive director, Tan Sze Wee.
A*Star will be showcasing its advanced manufacturing expertise at ITAP. This includes its public-private partnership platforms, such as the Model Factory initiative, continuous manufacturing capabilities and open innovation initiatives.
"This will support Singapore's vision to become a leading global advanced manufacturing hub," adds Prof Tan, of the summit's aim of engaging players all along the manufacturing value-chain, and catalysing partnerships.
Indeed, there is much that local companies stand to gain from the city's hosting of ITAP.
For the manufacturing sector, which the government has reiterated will remain a cornerstone of Singapore's economy, transformation is underway. Key sectors have rolled out Industry Transformation Maps, and companies now have at their disposal the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index - a tool EDB developed for companies to evaluate how ready they are for industrial transformation. (see amendment note)
EDB's assistant managing director Lim Kok Kiang sees ITAP furthering Singapore manufacturing's strides towards Industry 4.0 in several ways.
One, it allows companies to witness first-hand the possibilities of Industry 4.0. "While our companies recognise the importance of transformation, many are still grappling with its implementation. Through ITAP, companies can experience an actual physical manifestation and real-world applications of the latest technologies and solutions, as well as the tangible impact it brings," says Mr Lim.
Possibilities aside, ITAP was also designed to be practical - presenting solutions and technologies that companies can readily adopt. "The beauty of ITAP is that it takes an Asia-Pacific lens to the curation of topics for the conference and exhibitors to ensure it is practical and applicable to the needs of the audience," says Mr Lim.
It is also EDB's hope that ITAP might inform the public about how manufacturing is evolving. Mr Lim says: "Industrial transformation must ultimately benefit the people, in terms of helping our workforce get better jobs and career opportunities. I encourage Singaporeans from all walks of life to visit the fairground and speak to the companies and workers to better understand and experience the change that is happening."
That has, in fact, been woven into ITAP's programme too. There will be guided tours for students from tertiary institutions, industry trade delegations and workers' unions.
Amendment note: The tool EDB developed is known as the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index (SSRI). An earlier version of this article used a truncated version of this name.