The Lion City, Singapore has come a long way from its “fishing village” roots to the now modern cosmopolitan. It took her less than 50 years to achieve what it is today, and it’s going through yet another transformation in recent years.
We are talking about the Smart Nation initiative, which was launched on 24 November 2014.
The past four years have seen the rise of tech disruptions in Singapore where many corporations have adopted smart solutions for their businesses.
While big organisations can adapt fast to the pace that Singapore is moving to become a smart nation, there are still many small-and-medium size companies struggling to keep up.
The reasons for them range from having a tight budget to the lack of capacity in their human resource or software solutions.
This week, we speak to John Fox, Vice President, Marketing at Siemens PLM Software to find out his views how smaller setups can still keep up their pace in digitalising their business, and how Siemens can play a part in helping them.
SMBs are often tight in budget. To digitally transform their business would require time, workforce and budget. These are possibly the reasons why the transformation is slow. What are your thoughts on this and what’s your advice for them?
I think that some small and medium-sized manufacturers assume they’re “too small” to reap the benefits of digital transformation, or that the investments required are too large. That’s not the case – you can invest strategically in a way that makes sense for your business. According to IDC’s recent report “Digital Transformation in Product Design and Development: The Opportunity for SMB Manufacturers,” which surveyed SMBs around the world, 90 per cent of SMBs are allocating budget, and 50 per centare dedicating staff resources for digital transformation. Even the smallest manufacturers, those with fewer than 100 employees are investing, with 80 per cent allocating budget and 20 per cent dedicated staff. About one-third of the survey respondents were in the Asia Pacific region.
Many SMB manufacturers report that they’re making progress in digital transformation. Greater access to powerful but affordable digital technologies, like those available in Solid Edge from Siemens, is fueling this trend. Our Solid Edge customers, which include small startups, are getting their products to market faster, and more cost-effectively, with easy access to technologies like cloud-based collaboration, mobility, 3D printing, and best-in-class mechanical design and electrical design.
How can a service provider, say a consultancy, leverage on technology to help with their organisational productivity and bottom line gain?
Consultancies in the product design and manufacturing space – often called engineering service providers – can reap the same dividends from digital transformation as product makers. In fact, as service providers, there’s a compelling case to be made that they need to be well ahead of their clients. So more accessible digital technologies can help here too. And for those service providers who are just starting, we have a program called “Solid Edge for Startups” that’s available in Singapore. We provide software and other resources to startups who qualify, and the program is open to both manufacturers and engineering service providers.
One of our customers, Hall Designs, designs products and subsystems for the off-road racing industry. They’re using something called generative design within Solid Edge to develop optimised, stronger, lighter parts – reducing part count and increasing reliability – and then 3D printing them for production use. Think of generative design as artificial intelligence applied to product design, where the computer produces the optimal configuration based on a few inputs. This technology is now accessible for smaller companies with just a few employees, like Hall Designs.
How can Siemens PLM Software help SMBs?
Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge software enables SMBs to access industry-leading Siemens digital technologies. We also offer training and resources to get users up to speed and the most flexible licensing terms in our industry.
In Singapore, Siemens has established the ZerOne.DesIgn Digital Factory Manufacturing team to help Southeast Asian customers define the manufacturing architecture across their entire value chain in their digital transformation journey. The firm works closely with the customers’ operations team to identify gaps and opportunities and provides them the expertise to determine the digital technologies needed to advance towards Industry 4.0.
We are also collaborating with EDB to provide technical expertise and know-how to manufacturers in Singapore, as a Technology partner of the ‘Index Partners Network’. This includes the Smart Readiness Index that helps to assess Industry 4.0 readiness.
What are SMB’s top digital transformational goals?
Improving both product development and design processes were cited as SMB’s top digital transformational goals, according to the IDC research. These are mission-critical processes for SMB manufacturers and key enablers of success. SMBs are investing in what IDC calls “innovation accelerators,” like 3D printing, mobility, and artificial intelligence. And those who are more advanced along the digital transformation journey are investing at a higher pace. They view these types of accelerators as a way to level the playing field when competing with larger companies. Smaller companies enjoy a distinct advantage over larger ones. They tend to be more agile and can more easily adopt and benefit from new digital technologies.
Within the manufacturing industry space, what new tools or technologies are SMBs expecting to use the most?
As I mentioned, innovation accelerators like the cloud, mobility, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing were often cited. Other technologies like blockchain less so. The research shows that half of SMB manufacturers expect to use 3D printing to support product design and manufacturing in the next 12 months. Similar to large companies, SMBs note that 3D printing is mainly used for prototyping, but they expect the use of 3D printers for more production next year. SMBs say they are more open to using 3D printers in 12 months for areas such as packaging, manufacturing parts, and aftermarket parts and services.
Regarding cloud, a great example is our new Solid Edge Portal, which provides free, secure cloud-based collaboration and 5GB of storage. It’s easy to sign up and create an account. Solid Edge Portal offers a platform for managing, viewing and controlled sharing of files. It’s an excellent way for people to easily collaborate on projects with colleagues, suppliers, or partners – and ideal for any small manufacturer.
How can virtual design, modification and performance assessment aid in the playing field for SMBs?
From a Siemens perspective we talk a lot about how our customers are harnessing the power of digital technologies and the “digital twin” to transform their businesses. Digital is levelling the playing field for businesses of all sizes – including small and medium-sized enterprises. Large-scale, which was once a competitive advantage, can become a liability. The rise of digital has the potential to disrupt businesses and change the competitive landscape.
With the Solid Edge product development portfolio, small manufacturers can digitalise more and more of their product development process: mechanical design, electrical design, simulation, manufacturing, technical publications, data management, and more. By creating a digital twin of the product, SMBs can enjoy all sorts of downstream advantages. For example, they can validate the product’s performance via simulation and confirm product customer fit with the help of dynamic technical publications and photorealistic renderings – before manufacture, which saves time and money. It’s all about getting your great idea to market faster and at a lower cost than the competition.
More on Siemens’ solutions for SMB’s digital transformation needs can be found here: https://solidedge.siemens.com/en/solutions/initiatives/digital-transformation/