Thailand’s manufacturing sector ended 2017 with marginal gains from a relatively subdued year. Coinciding with declining FDI inflows and moderate GDP growth relative to other ASEAN countries, the country faces increasing competition from regional manufacturing hotspots such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
To accelerate the country’s transition to the value-based, innovation-driven economy of Thailand 4.0, the government has identified robotics and automation as key drivers of future growth. As much as 85 per cent of the manufacturing industry can benefit from adopting robot automation, yet only 50 per cent are ready to adopt within one to three years. Exacerbating this fact, only 18 per cent of firms in Thailand surveyed by the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey offer formal training to their workforce – less than the country’s ASEAN peers.
Upskilling and retraining the workforce is crucial for the country to meet the demands of Thailand 4.0. Robotics and automation technologies are evolving quickly, and businesses must address the large skills gap and lack of technology training opportunities within the industry in order to stay ahead of the curve. Recognising the urgency to remain regionally and globally competitive, public and private sector initiatives have emerged to raise the competencies of the workforce, and ultimately to capitalise on the industry’s potential for growth through robotics and automation.
In a positive step towards addressing skills and workforce barriers to robotics adoption, the Thai government recently partnered with the Federation of Thai Industries to set up a Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Academy (MARA). Implemented in three phases over ten years, MARA’s plan will focus on workforce development, skills advancement, and vocational training to implement robotics and automation in manufacturing.
As the government increases efforts to address the challenges of automation within the industry, manufacturers can also benefit from innovative solutions available within the private sector. For instance, to aid businesses in robotics training and adoption, Universal Robots offers free online learning modules that are available to everyone.
Cobots – robots designed to work side-by-side with people – offer many benefits that make them a valuable automation tool. Not only are cobots compact, safe, and adaptable in deployment, their intuitive programming shortens the learning curve so that even low-skilled employees can easily learn to use them.
Placing cobots beside employees on the same production line helps people to reduce repetitive and strenuous tasks, increasing productivity and product quality without high integration costs. As cobots
are deployed to do mundane tasks, employees are freed to upsskill themselves into higher value responsibilities aligned to evolving technology, such as designing and implementing solutions to improve business capacity or manufacturing processes using automation and robotics.
Cobots enable businesses to achieve the objectives of Thailand 4.0 by upskilling their employees, adopting robotics and automation in a fast and affordable way, and ultimately increasing their competitiveness.
Raising Robotics Literacy
Recognising the learning barriers to implementing industrial robots, Universal Robots has taken the industry lead by launching the UR Academy to aid businesses in robotics adoption. UR offers high calibre robotics training free of charge to anyone, with nine online modules that make up the basic programming training for UR robots. This includes adding end-effectors, connecting I/Os, creating basic programs, and setting up tools and safety zones. Rather than simply transferring information, the modules are built to deliver hands-on learning via interactive simulations to maximise user engagement. With over 20,000 users from 132 countries signed up to date, the training is open to everybody and is available in English, Spanish, German, French and Chinese.
The UR Academy works in tandem with UR+, an online platform that leverages UR’s global ecosystem of third party developers to enable Thai manufacturers to choose the best products for their requirements. From end-effectors and accessories to vision cameras and software, the tested and approved products ensure simple set-up, reliable operation, smooth user experience, and easy programming for large and small businesses alike.
Realising Thailand 4.0
As government and industry initiatives take shape to support the workforce for Thailand 4.0, manufacturers and businesses can stay ahead of the curve by leveraging affordable and easy to implement technology such as cobots. Complemented by key resources such as the UR Academy, manufacturing businesses are better positioned to accelerate adoption of robotics and automation and realise the potential for Thailand 4.0.