Robotics and automation industry playing key role in value creation under Thailand 4.0 model

Above image: ABB’s new facility in Rayong Province, Thailand, to produce machine-tending robotics, opened earlier this month/ Credit: ABB

In a recent press release, the Board of Investments (BOI) in Thailand highlighted the importance of robotics and automation technology in the Thailand 4.0 model.

During the last three decades, Thailand has become a leader in the global automotive and electronics and electrical appliance industries, the two industries primarily responsible for driving global robotics and automation growth.

The press release notes that as the world’s second-largest global producer and exporter of hard-disk drives and the world’s sixth-largest commercial vehicle producer, Thailand has already been using robotics and automation technology.

Over the past few years, manufacturers in Thailand have invested heavily in machinery and systems to increase the utilisation of automation system and remain competitive in the global manufacturing arena. Around 50 per cent of manufacturers in the country are considering the adoption of automation systems within 1-3 years, while medium-sized businesses are expected to be ready in 3-5 years, followed by small companies in five years or more.

BOI says that this development has opened greater opportunities in Thailand’s robotics and automation industry. Due to this strong customer base, the industrial robotics industry in Thailand has expanded significantly over the past decade. The size of Thailand’s shipments of industrial robots is estimated to increase by 133% from 2,131 units in 2013 to 7,500 units in 2018.

“We now see many companies transitioning into industry 4.0, making use of artificial intelligence, big data management and the Internet of Things to seamlessly work together to exponentially increase both production and productivity,” explained Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General of BOI.

Automation and Robotics is among the 10 targeted industries under Thailand 4.0. These industries can be divided into two segments: 1) First S-curve or five existing industrial sectors (which can be developed by adding value through advanced technologies (Next-Generation Automotive, Smart Electronics, High-Income Tourism and Medical Tourism, Efficient Agriculture and Biotechnology and Food Innovation) and 2) New S-curve or five sectors which can serve as growth engines to accelerate Thailand’s future growth (Automation and Robotics, Aerospace, Bio-Energy and Bio-chemicals, Digital and Medical and Healthcare).

While demand is constantly increasing, Thailand’s infrastructure and ecosystem are ready to support the robotics and automation industry.

To support this policy, educational institutions are providing support for research and development and human resource training. For example, the Institute of Field Robotics (FIBO) of King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, is offering undergraduate and graduate programmes in robotics and automation engineering. In 2015, 76 universities and 83 vocational schools produced 82,259 graduates in engineering and related courses.

The BOI is offering a wide range of tax and non-tax investment incentives for projects that meet national development objectives. The BOI offers up to eight years of corporate income tax on machinery and import duty for raw material for export production.

For projects related to assembling robots or automation equipment and/or automation parts, investors will enjoy a five-year corporate tax exemption. The companies investing in robotics and automation in EEC area (Eastern Economic Corridor) will receive another 50 per cent corporate income tax reduction for another five years.

The Government is also providing non-tax incentives such as permission to bring in expatriates, own land and take or remit foreign currency abroad.

Ms. Duangjai also the social context. “Considering that Thailand aims to be the medical hub of Asia and that the country is rapidly becoming an ageing society, service robots that can be integrated with people’s lifestyle are increasingly important,” she said

The press release highlights several innovations in medical robotics. These include Fhasai, robot-assisted therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders; Dinsow, an elderly care robot; Sensible Tab, an arm rehabilitation robot; B-Hive, a pharmacy automation system to refill medicines at a rate of 20 seconds per prescription; and Bumbee, a medical dispenser robot.

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