The journey to cost-effective digital solutions

10:05 | 20/11/2019 Science - Technology

(VEN) - The Industry 4.0 Summit 2019, themed “Digital Vietnam: Accelerating digital transformation towards sustainable development”, took place in Hanoi from October 2-3 with the participation of nearly 100 domestic and foreign companies. Vietnam Economic News’ Quynh Nga and Mai Huong spoke with Dr. Brian David Hull, Country Managing Director of ABB in Vietnam about the global leader’s technologies and cost-effective digital solutions, which help enhance business efficiency.

the journey to cost effective digital solutions
Dr. Brian David Hull, Country Managing Director of ABB in Vietnam

What opportunities and challenges will Vietnam face in the context of the global digital transformation?

The Industry 4.0 Summit focused on sustainable development, picking up the theme of the recent UN climate change conference in New York. From this conference we know that Vietnam, and the South of Vietnam in particular, will face many challenges as temperatures and sea levels rise.

The good news is that digital technologies, for example smart grids connected with the use of smart energy storage solutions, can really ensure that we have the sustainable energy that Vietnam needs to take advantage of Industry 4.0. We know that Vietnam is blessed with great renewable energy resources - sun, wind and water. So in energy storage and transmission, I see that Vietnam has many natural advantages, and investors, both local and international, are enthusiastic to lend to this sector.

But of course there are also challenges. As more and more devices are connected, the issue of cyber security needs to be carefully accessed and managed, and here local companies with limited resources and technology exposure may find a challenge. The development of a skilled workforce and the legislative framework to allow the rapid development of such technologies is also an area that needs further work.

The digital transformation, digital economy and digital era offer Vietnam opportunities to realize its aspiration to become a powerful nation. What do you think Vietnam needs to do to overcome challenges, as well as to achieve successful digital transformation results?

I believe there are three key areas Vietnam really needs to focus on to realize its maximum potential and become a powerful nation. First, I think we have to start with education and the working population, because we all know that the workers of tomorrow are students of today, and we need to train them, give them the best chance to take advantage of new technology.

Second, as a range of FDI and local companies seek to expand their manufacturing in Vietnam, I suggest the Vietnamese government, local authorities and industrial zones give priority to those investors who really want to deploy the most modern Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies.

Third, there are key sectors, particularly energy, where the government still has a key role to play and strong influence on investment in critical infrastructure through large companies such as EVN and its subsidiaries. Here it can give a clear signal to the wider market that it is serious and committed to the digital future by investing in smart, digital assets.

ABB is one of the leading technology groups with active support for Vietnam’s efforts to accelerate digitalization. Could you share ABB’s specific plans/projects in Vietnam?

I am delighted to say that ABB continues to accelerate its own digital journey here in Vietnam. We are currently finalizing our plans for a new manufacturing facility in Bac Ninh, and here we will deploy all the latest ABB Ability digital technologies to ensure the manufacturing plant is state of the art in using connected services for energy, water, logistics, warehousing and Manufacturing Execution systems. This will provide us with leading edge productivity and quality, and also act as a showcase for other customers.

Perhaps one of the most visible images of Industry 4.0 that people recognize is that of advanced robots. ABB is the largest supplier of industrial robots in Vietnam, and we are now connecting these robots to allow us to monitor their performance remotely, and allow manufacturers to take advantage of additional data to make their operations more efficient.

Do you have any advice to help Vietnamese businesses succeed in digital transformation?

When you are upgrading brownfield facilities, focus on the critical components where having smart technology in place will really make a difference. For example, choose to deploy smart sensors on critical drives/motors/transformers/switchgear. This will allow the teams to get used to new technology.

When you are considering greenfield investment, ensure that you have a clear Industry 4.0/digital approach right from the start, so that all the key components are smart and digitally enabled. If you start with this investment mindset from the beginning, the additional investment costs are minimal and you will see the returns much more quickly.

Finally, make sure to reward and motivate staff who are passionate about this technology so they can be the ambassadors of change across your organizations.

In the era of digitalization, technology creates new business opportunities and new strategies. It not only supports business activities but also helps promote growth and is the root of competitive advantages. However, most Vietnamese companies are small to medium in size and weak in terms of financial capacity. These limitations hinder them from applying modern technologies in production. What do you think is the solution to this problem?

The first point I would make is that starting on the digital journey does not have to be very expensive. Talk with technology providers like ABB about issues that cause operational difficulties, and there will often be very cost effective digital solutions available off the shelf.

Second, I would suggest that Vietnamese companies do not have to waste money “reinventing the wheel”. ABB is willing to share what we have already done in our own factories in Vietnam. We have invested in robotics technology centers in Hanoi and will soon do so in Ho Chi Minh City where you can see the technology in action. In Singapore, we have an Innovation Space where you can see a range of these new technologies in action, from tracking performance of turbochargers on ships to maximizing efficiency in industrial plants and data centers. Take advantage of the lessons learned by other companies who have gone before, and start the digital journey now.

Quynh Nga & Mai Huong