A*Star, Arcstone launch joint lab for smart manufacturing solutions

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LOCAL manufacturing software company Arcstone and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) on Thursday opened a joint laboratory to develop smart manufacturing solutions that will boost digital transformation in the industry.

A total of S$18 million will be invested over the next three years into the lab at A*Star's Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC). A*Star units ARTC and the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) will collaborate with Arcstone to develop next-generation manufacturing execution systems (MES) from Arcstone's existing solutions.

Existing MES in Industry 4.0-enabled factories help manufacturers extract and monitor operational data in real time, and enable them to control machines digitally and remotely. However, the MES are limited in their ability to highlight areas where production processes could be optimised, for example.

Arcstone and the A*Star units will integrate technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) into Arcstone's MES, so it can provide manufacturers with better visibility of their production processes, as well as recommend ways to improve the processes. ARTC will contribute capabilities in advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technologies, while IHPC has expertise in areas including computational modelling, simulation and AI.

The collaboration is expected to halve the time needed for research and development to reach Arcstone's goal, and create about 30 engineering jobs over the next three years.

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong was the guest of honour at the joint lab's opening.

Alfred Huan, assistant chief executive of A*Star's Science and Engineering Research Council, said A*Star's collaborations with small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) like Arcstone are meant to help them build new capabilities in order to move up the value chain.

"Such public-private partnerships continue to play an important role in encouraging businesses to adopt technologies to differentiate themselves from the competition," Prof Huan said.

He added: "This collaboration with Arcstone is also an example of how local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) can deploy their new solutions to help other local SMEs speed up digital transformation in their factories, driving increased digitalisation across the board."

To ensure the MES is accessible to first-time users, it will be designed to be easy to configure and use. The joint lab will work on projects that enable the MES to help improve production through real-time visibility, control production using IIoT technologies, optimise production using simulation and AI and make production greener through data and optimisation.

"Our goal with the joint lab is to rapidly produce cutting-edge technology to give SMEs and global manufacturers a leg up in efficiency, productivity and most importantly, long-term sustainability and environmental competitiveness," said Willson Deng, chief executive officer of Arcstone.

He expressed confidence in achieving this aim, citing Arcstone's experience collaborating with ARTC since it joined the ARTC consortium in 2016.

They co-developed a new IIoT-equipped version of Arcstone's MES in 2018 and an MES module in 2020 to track items outside a factory and in other parts of the supply chain. Arcstone's customer base and sales revenue have tripled since it started collaborating with ARTC.

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