With ASEAN seemingly poised to displace China from manufacturing and other fields as it moves up the value chain, robotics and automation may be the next promising growth sectors to attract investments from venture capitalists and private equity firms in Southeast Asia.
Packaged food, medical supplies and dental braces already pass through the mechanical and speedy hands of robots before making their way to consumers.
Able to work quickly, precisely and tirelessly, robots are gaining traction worldwide in multiple industrial sectors, among them manufacturing, construction, medicine and in the defence sector. Their benefits? Superior productivity and efficiency for businesses, as well as facilitating safer and superior working conditions for workers.
Lim Say Leong, assistant vice president of marketing at Swiss automation firm ABB, recently gave an interview, commenting that preparation for advancements in robotics was necessary, saying: “Industries must act now to prepare themselves in integrated automation for when the economy recovers; where further automation will lead to a less labour intensive and more productive future, with less resources and time used to produce more goods at a high and consistent quality.”
Industrial robots are highly versatile and flexible in their operational environment, and can be programmed to perform a broad range of complex tasks, unlike industrial automation machinery, where machines perform a repetitive set of operations.
With global adoption accelerating, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has estimated that 200,000 industrial robots were installed worldwide in 2014, a 15 per cent increase over 2013. In Asia Pacific (APAC) markets, robot sales are set to increase by ~16 per cent over the 2015-2017 period.
In Singapore’s case, robotics is especially critical. Manufacturing accounts for 27 per cent of the GDP in 2012, according to a report by the Singapore-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Investments in robotics and automation can deliver productivity gains in productivity, An example of robotics technology being deployed in the city-state are robotic drug storage and dispensing machines at a number of public hospitals in Singapore.