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Being smart in the "smart" era

Released at: 07:58, 18/06/2018

Being smart in the "smart" era

Photo: Viet Tuan

Creating a smart factory is the objective of all of Vietnam's leading manufacturers but internal and external obstacles must be tackled.

by Hong Nhung

A robot called DX2 was introduced to more than 30 Vietnamese enterprises a few months ago at the “Future of Manufacturing - Infusing Digital Technologies into Factories” gathering in Ho Chi Minh City, where it showcased its distinctive functions, especially talking and interacting with people. Created by Deloitte, “this robot represents rapid development in state-of-the-art technologies, such as cloud computing infrastructure, big data analysis, and device connection, which have been greatly influencing productivity and quality in the business and production processes of enterprises,” said Mr. Muralidhar MSK, Manufacturing Consulting Leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia.

Towards AI

Vietnam has seen a wave of artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years, with major local manufacturers concentrating on updating to new technologies and applying AI into their production lines as part of becoming a “smart factory”.

Vietnam’s No. 1 milk producer, Vinamilk, is gradually bringing AI into production and management at its factories. “Our dairy plants are receiving new machinery and equipment that use advanced technology and high levels of automation,” said Mr. Tran Minh Van, Executive Director - Production, at Vinamilk. “For example, our Vietnam milk facility in southern Binh Duong province has applied AI in almost all production stages - input materials, processing automation, packaging, equipment efficiency analysis, and many others.”

The company’s workplace productivity, quality, and output have all increased significantly as a result, cutting costs and allowing Vinamilk to compete with imports from famous global milk brands. “Vinamilk has frequently updated and absorbed development trends in the world’s most advanced technology in the food processing and dairy industries,” he added. “We cooperate with leading global partners in integrating automation solutions into our plants.” 

Among the Top 3 pharmaceutical firms in the country, Traphaco last November opened Vietnam’s most modern pharma plant, in northern Hung Yen province, as part of its ambitions to become the country’s leading manufacturer in terms of pharmaceutical technologies by 2020. With the application of information technology (IT) in management and production, the plant has the most up-to-date eye drop production line in Vietnam, using BFS technology, and a pills production line using European-standard robotic arms. 

Its large-capacity syringe and liquid medicine production lines are fully synchronized and connected automatically. Based on the principle of “No touch, No dust” in production, the lines minimize human intervention in production, improving product quality. “The opening of the smart pharmaceutical factory demonstrates the determination of our employees to realize our sustainable development strategy,” said Mr. Tran Tuc Ma, General Director of Traphaco. “The factory has a capacity of 1.2 billion products a year, with only 130 workers involved in the whole production process, just one half of the workforce needed for the older production processes, while productivity has increased three-fold.”

Leading local auto maker the Truong Hai Auto JSC (Thaco) commenced operations at its largest and most modern manufacturing factory in Southeast Asia in March, in central Quang Nam province. The first phase of the project, costing $307 million, has been completed, with half of the designed capacity of 200,000 units per year. The plant adopts a digitization-based production operating system, connecting automation lines with information on the value chain, from ordering to production. The company has applied intelligent production by use of automobile assembly using robots and smart workshops towards becoming a smart factory.

Global manufacturing competitiveness index

Even smarter

From discussions with industrial automation suppliers, Mr. Muralidhar said there is significant optimism about the adoption of robotics based on sales of industrial robots. Some of the automotive plants set up recently in Vietnam are among the most advanced and automated in Southeast Asia. With the latest in global technologies, multinational companies (MNCs) in Vietnam are prominent in terms of digitized manufacturing and operation systems.

As one of the world’s largest industrial manufacturers, General Electric (GE) is ushering in a new era of manufacturing by merging hardware and software and reimagining how products are designed, made, and serviced. “At GE, we have something called a ‘brilliant’ factory. Our brilliant factory uses big data, software, sensors, controllers, and robotics to increase productivity and deliver asset and operations optimization,” Mr. Pham Hong Son, CEO of GE Vietnam, told VET. “This means that AI is the essential, but not the only, part in our factories.”

GE is in the process of developing 17 brilliant factories around the world, each balancing operational excellence and lean manufacturing with maturity and the implementation of digital technology. “The GE Hai Phong plant, or the ‘Hai Phong Brilliant Factory’, is among these and the first in the ASEAN region,” Mr. Son said. Since its transformation in 2016, productivity at the Hai Phong plant has increased 20 per cent, product lead time has been reduced by 50 per cent, and inventory cut by 20 per cent. “We are pushing the boundaries to get even more impressive results by putting in place welding robots and crane-free operations and moving line manufacturing, as using digital tools to help welding increased efficiency from 12 to 30 per cent, while smart torque improved quality control in manufacturing and increased productivity by 5 per cent,” he added. This facility now exports manufactured parts, particularly for the renewable energy sector, worth more than $500 million since inception, to Europe, the US, and China.

“GE started the journey by creating digital solutions for our businesses, applying them to enhance efficiency in administration and operations, and we will keep the pace to drive value for customers,’ Mr. Son went on. “As Industry 4.0 is occurring around the world and also right here in Vietnam, we are ready to ramp up to achieve even more and support others.”

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