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Malaysian SMEs must start small with I4.0 tech

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should not look at huge investments as a hindrance for them to adopt Industry 4.0 (I4.0) as they had the option of starting small.

The Data Economy Director of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation stated that SMEs could take the approach of prioritising which segment had the potential to be transformed first, towards helping to generate better productivity and efficiency.

However, companies must understand that before adopting I4.0, they should first have data, not ‘big’ data, but quality data, which may come in different forms and volume, because without it, we cannot process any information, be it text, visual, voice, figures and so forth.

This is important because the reason for using data is to extract certain information, which is then processed to make a valued prediction and secure the intended results.

I4.0 is the concept, whereby, machines are augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors, connected to a system that can visualise the entire production line and make decisions on its own.

Companies need to know what they want to achieve and must be willing to invest in time, money and expertise for gathering quality data, build the infrastructure system and acquire the right tools to enable the data to be processed.

For example, if a firm wants to sort certain items in their manufacturing process, they might want to use automatic sensors to identify the size, weight, content and packaging of the correct item.

This would require them to gather precious information (data) pertaining to the item prior to programming it and before the sorting process can happen according to their preferences.

It was noted that MDEC is constantly collaborating with local technology providers to help businesses move into I4.0.

Most of the information and technology (IT) players that the agency works with, develop their own systems on big data analytics, cloud computing solutions and data engineering.

However, as this I4.0 adoption trend is growing at a faster pace, there will be more demand for data analysts, data scientist and data engineers by companies.

Thus, as more services will be offered to companies, it is expected that the cost of digital transformation will gradually lower, making it affordable for more companies to adopt digital strategies.

As the agency under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia entrusted to lead the nation’s digital economy forward, companies are welcome to seek knowledge, training, participate in various programmes and get advice on the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

In line with this objective, MDEC organised the AI & Data Week (AIDW) 2019 (previously called Big Data Week) from 9 to 15 September 2019.

The aim is to position Malaysia as the regional digital hub for AI and data. SMEs must appreciate the concept of data as the base for I4.0.

The government must prioritise upskilling workers for I4.0

According to another report, the Vice-President of Talent and Digital Entrepreneurship at MDEC suggested that more funds should be allocated for upskilling of the existing workforce in Budget 2020.

It is hoped that the government will allocate (more) or, at least, give more focus to upskilling of the existing workforce because technology is changing jobs, so people need to be continuously reskilled.

In addition to allocation from the government, Sumitra stressed that mindset shifts of the people were crucial to fully grasp the digital transformation era.

Digital disruption is creating new job opportunities. The World Economic Forum predicted that 65 per cent of the people today would work in jobs that had yet to exist and most of these required digital skills.

A school system for future innovators, established to nurture tech-savvy children and to cultivate talents through the system, is what the agency hopes is on the horizon.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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