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Research to support SMEs in adopting Industry 4.0

22 Jan 2018

Under its COE Program, the APO is assessing the level of digitization and the critical needs of SME to achieve it.

As part of its Center of Excellence (COE) Program aimed at showcasing the best practices in a specialized area of a country to be emulated by other member economies, the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) recently initiated research on Industry 4.0 Digitization Strategies for SMEs. A coordination meeting among all experts, the National Productivity Council, India (NPC), and APO Secretariat took place 13–15 December 2017 in New Delhi. The research is part of plans to develop the roadmap for the COE on IT for Industry 4.0 established in 2017 under the NPC.

The initial research coordination meeting was attended by chief expert Dr. Eva Diedrichs, Managing Director of IMP³rove–European Innovation Management Academy of Germany, and five national experts: Department of Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor and Industry 4.0 Implementation Center Vice Director Dr. Wei-chen Lee, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology; Smart Manufacturing Solutions Head & Chief Architect Ravi Ramarao, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited, India; Researcher Dr. Ikbal Maulana, Research Center for Development of Science and Technology, Indonesian Institute of Sciences; Quality & Excellence Development Director Sarimah binti Misman, Malaysia Productivity Corporation; and Quality Management Department Head Xuan Phong Bui, FPT University School of Business, Vietnam.


During the coordination meeting, the team of APO experts defined the project scope, including data collection and analysis methods and timeline. They also designed a set of questionnaires to assess current levels of digitization and the critical needs of SME to achieve it. Recommendations on national SME digitization strategies will be generated through the research.

Industry 4.0, the ongoing technological revolution driven by new-generation technologies, is fundamentally transforming the future of production systems. The integration of manufacturing with state-of-the-art ICT linked to logistics processes among different companies is a key concept underlying Industry 4.0.

In APO economies, however, while SMEs are on a fast-growth trajectory, only a small fraction of them have access to the type of ICT commonplace in larger enterprises. SMEs must also overcome numerous barriers before taking full advantage of Industry 4.0 opportunities, including a lack of digitization knowledge, steep learning curve involved, and difficulty in defining the starting point. The newly designated APO COE under the NPC will support SMEs in member countries in their move toward digitization and in staying competitive in global value chains as the Fourth Industrial Revolution proceeds.

During the coordination meeting, NPC Director General and APO Alternate Director for India Dr. Vandana Kumar pointed out that SMEs accounted for 80% of jobs in the Indian manufacturing sector. “They are directly impacted by Industry 4.0 and therefore India cannot ignore related trends,” she stressed, highlighting the importance of the COE and what the country expects to achieve through it.

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