This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on October 22, 2018
PETALING JAYA: Companies cannot afford to exist in a vacuum, shying away from the complications of Industry 4.0. With the accelerating pace of change and new business models being thrown up almost daily, they need to figure out how to navigate this new world and secure their place in it.
The Edge Malaysia managing editor Anna Taing said companies need to keep their ears to the ground as every industry is being disrupted in unthinkable ways.
“And to put a more positive spin, figure out what the world is going to look like and design a business model to address that world,” she said in her opening speech at the The Edge Industry 4.0 Forum: Embracing Digitisation in Petaling Jaya on Saturday.
Taing said there are real requirements in the market that are not being addressed.
“And you have to figure out what these are and come up with solutions for them, rather than hop on the latest bandwagon.
“Technology will help you get there and scale. It is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself,” she added.
Frankly, Malaysian companies should not be too worried as they are in the best position to take advantage of Industry 4.0, according to the first speaker — Fusionex International vice-president for new technologies Raju Chellam.
This is because the country has many unique features put together that neighbouring countries lack, said Raju in his presentation on Gearing up for 4.0.
“English language skills are also available in Singapore, but they have no land and no competitive labour. Cambodia and Vietnam may have competitive labour, but they don’t have the English language skills or the infrastructure. (For Industry 4.0 to take off in Malaysia), what it will require is probably political will and awareness from the community,” Chellam said.
In order to achieve this goal, companies should find a partner who can help address their weak spots, such as in AI (artificial intelligence) or data management.
“You should find a partner, not a vendor. A vendor will sell something to you and go away. A partner will invest in you, do the proof-of-concept free of charge and invest in your success,” Chellam said.
The second speaker, Linear DMS Solutions Sdn Bhd managing director, Dave Choong, said regardless of industry type, there is no better time than now for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt and reap the benefits of adopting the Internet of Things (IoT). Unlike previous disruptive technologies, he said Industry 4.0 technologies pose a real threat to businesses who do not catch up.
“If you do not take action today, you will be left out. In every scenario, businesses are losing millions annually because they lack visibility, automation and risk mitigation through predictive analysis [that IoT adoption can provide].
“Despite the disparity of industries with the technology, SMEs can take advantage of low-hanging-fruit technologies and leverage on global [cloud] infrastructure and tech trends from service providers,” he added in his presentation on Journey to Digitisation: IoT.
Choong cited a use case in agriculture — an industry where the businesses are run by subject matter experts who have been operating in the same way for generations.
With outdoor IoT enablers, such as long range (LoRa) technology and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), he said farmers may address pain points such as disease outbreak, rising wages, pond pollution and survival yield.
The third speaker, Loke Khing Hong, director of Medical Devices Corp Sdn Bhd brought it down to brass tacks. He had invented an automated peritoneal dialysis machine that was IoT-enabled.
Speaking on Transforming Dialysis with IoT towards Made in Malaysia 2025. Loke pointed out that kidney failure patients today can opt for a transplant or two forms of dialyses — haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.
“Haemodialysis is a hospital or centre-based treatment, where the patient needs to endure a gruelling seven-hour process every alternate day. If you opt for this method, then you just won’t be able to work anymore — you’ll lose your source of income.”
Alternatively, a patient may opt for peritoneal dialysis, a far less invasive and more practical treatment option. The only problem, according to Loke, is that peritoneal dialysis has not seen any major innovation in decades, and worse, has been dominated by a small handful of international companies.
“The automated peritoneal dialysis machines currently in the market are large, 16 kg devices,” he said.
But Loke, an accountant by training, has been able to develop a unit that weighs just 3kg, and is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors that monitor a variety of parameters during the dialysis treatment.
“The machine is controlled by an app on a Bluetooth-enabled smart device. Intelligent sensors in the machine read and record the data on a Cloud-based server. The patient’s physician may then access this data and monitor the patient’s overall condition and health during treatment in real time, albeit remotely,” he said.
This overcomes a major pain point in the dialysis treatment, according to Loke. Healthcare professionals typically want their patients to come in to the hospitals or treatment centres, so their conditions can be monitored directly.
The IoT-enabled automated peritoneal dialysis machine, as envisioned by Loke, could be a multi-billion-dollar game changer. In providing a locally-manufactured alternative to clunky and expensive imports, he might just be able to shake up a health sub-sector that has seen little innovation over the last few decades.
Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd chief digital officer Praveen Rajan, however, felt that SMEs especially, should take baby steps into Industry 4.0 and not be overwhelmed by big ideas such as AI, machine learning and IoT.
During his session on Digital transformation: A possibility for everyone, Praveen said Digi itself had taken baby steps to improve its business based on the market insights such as the fact that 39% of Digi’s 11.8 million users use WeChat to communicate with their friends and family, which led it to come out with a WeChat channel to engage its customers for support services and marketing purposes.
The company also started to offer its users prepaid cards through individual agents and vendors scattered throughout the country instead of providing it through Digi branches.
This is because many Android phone users tend to buy a prepaid card on a three-to-five day basis and they want to buy it from the places they visit every day.
“These are the small steps we have taken over the years. You don’t need to spend a million dollars. There are many free or subscription-based services which do not require much money,” he said.