Manufacturing industries all around the world today face a period of great change brought about by the evolution of digital technologies. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) trend is already sweeping the world. In order to maintain international competitiveness in manufacturing, a core industry that accounts for approximately 20 per cent of Singapore’s GDP, the public and private sectors are implementing initiatives to put the country at the forefront of innovation utilising cutting-edge IIoT. In January 2016, Singapore announced the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan, which lays out the government’s research and development strategy and appropriated a budget of S$19.0 billion for the five-year period until 2020. This is the largest ever budget for an RIE plan. The government is prepared to provide an unprecedented level of support for enhancing the R&D capabilities of universities, government institutions, and private companies and plans to invest S$3.2 billion during the coming five years to support research in cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technologies such as IIoT, robotics, and cloud computing. Supported by these government policies, IIoT solutions providers from around the world are gathering in Singapore one after another. IIoT solution providers in Singapore U.S.-based Emerson Electric Co. opened its first Pervasive Sensing Center of Excellence in the Asia region in Singapore in November 2014, investing US$10 million. The centre provides support for employee safety assurance and cost and risk reduction by analyzing data gathered from wireless sensors installed in every nook and corner of a manufacturing plant. Emerson is also providing an experimental project and training program relating to pervasive sensing in cooperation with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).
The newly opened Emerson Solutions Center in Singapore brings to life the capabilities of Emerson’s Plantweb™ digital ecosystem. Photo credit: Emerson
Just recently in November last year, Emerson opened a customer-focused Solutions Center at the regional headquarters of its Automation Solutions business here in Singapore. The newly opened Emerson Solutions Center in Singapore brings to life the capabilities of Emerson’s Plantweb™ digital ecosystem, the industry’s most comprehensive Industrial IoT automation platform. The Plantweb offering consists of standards-based hardware, software, intelligent devices, and services for securely implementing Industrial IoT-based solutions that can expand digital intelligence to the entire manufacturing enterprise. Accenture, a leading global IT consulting firm, has also opened its first IoT research centre in Singapore in September 2015. The Internet of Things Centre of Excellence conducts technological research related to big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, sensors, and other IoT related topics. The EDB also supports this effort by introducing new technology partners to Accenture. The research centre houses an innovation hub for Rio Tinto, a major resources company based in Australia, and Accenture has plans to collaborate with other companies as well. Leading Japanese companies in IIoT utilisation Japanese companies are also active in IIoT in Singapore. In November 2015, Yokogawa Engineering Asia, a subsidiary of Yokogawa Electric Corporation, established in Singapore the Yokogawa Global IIoT Co-Innovation Centre as a technology development centre for the purpose of utilising big data together with corporate customers and IT companies. The company plans to invest S$112 million over the coming three to five years and has already agreed to collaborate with companies in the electric power, chemical, and oil refining industries. Japanese companies are likewise playing a leading role in IIoT utilisation in the chemical industry. The energy and chemical sector, which ranks alongside electronics as the largest manufacturing sector in Singapore, is in some respects conservative about introducing cutting-edge technologies. Their reluctance is attributable to the extreme complexity of process technologies and the industry’s stance of placing the highest importance on safe operation. Despite these circumstances, Japanese companies are playing a leading role in IoT utilisation in the sector. For instance, Denka is implementing a pilot project to identify energy loss and equipment failure by monitoring vapour traps. Emerson’s pervasive sensing technology is utilised in the project, which found out that 15 per cent of 61 vapour traps were not working properly that resulted in an estimated cost of S$29,245 and 62 tonnes of carbon emitted a year. Extrapolated over Denka’s 300 vapour traps, the estimated lost would be S$144,000 and over 300 tonnes of additional carbon emissions annually. Early detection using Emerson’s technology would enable cost savings. Denka plans to use the analysis results to ensure appropriate operation of vapour traps and reduce CO2 emissions. In November 2016, Sumitomo Chemical started a global IoT project in Singapore with support from the EDB, which it will implement in cooperation with Accenture. The company will actively utilise the latest technologies, including digitalization of plant-related operations and visualization and upgrading of global supply chain information. The expertise acquired in Singapore by Sumitomo Chemical will enable Singapore to be reference site for the roll-out of IoT to the rest of its plant globally. Benefits from IIoT are immeasurable In the words of Mr. Damian Chan, Executive Director of Energy and Chemicals at EDB, “I am delighted that Japanese chemical manufacturers are utilising Industrial IoT in Singapore. Through these technologies, we can take a major step toward a sustained increase in the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector.” The benefits to be obtained from IIoT are immeasurable and include increased energy efficiency, productivity and safety improvement. Singapore will continue to strengthen collaboration between companies from around the world with the aim of creating new business opportunities and transforming the energy and chemical sector.