What is the strategy that led to turning a sour lemon into sweet lemon juice? S.Korea and China showed the way…

The global pandemic was especially harsh on the manufacturing sector where lengthy shutdowns and travel restrictions caused factory activities to shrink drastically.

Thrown into a new and disruptive environment, manufacturers have had to react quickly and embark on a new but steep learning curve on how to do things a little differently during this crisis. 

While Asian economies were already one of the most technologically advanced in the world before the pandemic, remote-working was still an unthought-of situation in the factory setting. With that situation now the norm, rather than concede defeat, many manufacturers now see this as an opportunity for value creation in the industry.

In their efforts to reduce person-to-person interactions in handling equipment and overall production, manufacturers are increasingly looking toward contactless processes. In the digitalization of production processes, industry players have found that the benefits are far surpassing their expectations.

Turning challenges into an opportunities

Other than the expected value of safety and reduction of physical risk, manufacturers have found that they have been able to maintain and even increase efficiency and proficiency as they dove into these new and innovative production processes. While initial apprehensions were valid, the value that the digitalization of the production process brings is becoming increasingly evident and we are seeing more and more players jumping on the digital bandwagon.

Leading the charge are economies that were already dipping into the digitalization pool, such as China and Korea. These two powerhouses had already laid the groundwork for the digitalization of their manufacturing processes even before the pandemic, and now they are striding swiftly forward to transform their economies towards digital and eco-sustainability. 

For South Korea, its ‘untact’ or no contact economy has been agile in adapting to the pandemic. They have readily adopted new manufacturing technologies and have the second-highest density of robots in the world per 10,000 employees. The expansion of infocomm tech usage throughout the economy is seeing a rise in productivity and the focus is now on strengthening the training of its workforce to quickly adapt itself to this new landscape.

China has also embraced new and emerging technologies in an effort to exponentially grow its industries after facing challenges from new and emerging economies. This focus on innovative manufacturing has seen the country’s industry bounce back more rapidly than most other players.

The rest of Asia is not far behind. Singapore is proactively pursuing automation, second only to Korea in its concentration of robots and is wooing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with its Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative to help implement digital use cases and redesign jobs.

Industry players in South-east Asia have also recognized the fact that heightened digital capabilities can enhance revenue growth, with an estimated GDP growth by one percent in Malaysia, while technology transformations could add US$2.8tn to Indonesia’s economy by 2040.

DX + Green = Sustainability

The incorporation of emerging technologies and the digitalization of manufacturing processes is not only driving industry recovery forward but also placing these economies in the enviable situation of addressing climate issues and moving their economies towards a green recovery.

While we can expect that this will be a protracted journey as these economies try to find stable footing after the pandemic, measures that they are taking are leading them slowly but surely towards a greener future.   Automation and smart factories play critical roles in green recovery measures and they safeguard a sustainable recovery for these economies—with assurances of higher levels of employment, and better financial and economic returns: a motivator for these economies looking to march forward with these measures.