A Conversation with Don Teng
A Conversation with Don Teng
by Dr. Raymon Krishnan, Editor-at-Large, LogiSYM Magazine
Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, OMRON Corporation is a multi-billion-dollar, diversified company with business units producing industrial automation products, device & module solutions, healthcare, and social system solutions. The company is a global leader in the Industrial Automation business providing complete automation solutions for various industrial applications. It brings innovation to manufacturing sites through its innovative-Automation comprising of “Integrated”, “Intelligent” and “Interactive” concepts with one of the world’s most sophisticated and wide product range encompassing panel components, smart sensors, Vision technologies, PLCs, Servos, Drives, Robots & Cobots and Machine safety solutions.
In APAC, the concept of innovative-Automation has made OMRON create immense value for the manufacturing segment by solving varied issues in multifarious sectors such as automotive, food & beverage, FMCG, digital and logistics to name just a few. It strives to support manufacturing innovation with its unique sensing & control technologies and caters to customers situated in 8 countries in the region via its strong and wide network of offices, application capabilities, service and sales engineers supported by an automation technology centre (for demos and Proof of Concepts), training centres as well as channel partners to address the ever- challenging requirements.
At the helm of the business in the region is Mr. Don Teng, whom LogiSYM’s Editor-At-Large, Dr. Raymon Krishnan, managed to catch up with recently to talk about OMRON’s journey to date and future plans.
OMRON LD-series working on material transportation.
Would you tell our readers a little about your background and experience and what are some of your greatest achievements?
I started my professional journey more than 30 years ago as an Equipment Engineer with a Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing. Fascinated by the world of industrial automation technology. My enthusiasm and passion for automation made me foray into other aspects of the industry such as product management, marketing, and eventually overall management.
Inspired by the concept of creating harmony between men and machines, I strongly believe in the cause of ensuring worker’s safety when they work with machines and have been actively engaged in propagating it as a regulatory initiative amongst the right stakeholders in Singapore.
Apart from spearheading the automation business in the APAC region, I have also sought to amplify adoption of innovative-Automation amongst FMCG packaging solutions manufacturers in Indonesia by enabling them to become more sustainable through innovative ways of recycling and reducing packaging materials.
We understand OMRON is a well-known player providing automation solutions to many sectors like Automotive, Food & Commodity, Digital, Medical, etc. Why the focus on Logistics at this point in time?
Since 2016, OMRON has solved the manufacturing issues of varied sectors through realizing its unique manufacturing innovation concept of innovative-Automation. The company is now looking ahead at the next decade and aims to go a level up and reinvigorate the innovative-Automation concept.
This scale up is in sync with the transformation being witnessed by the manufacturing world. Currently, manufacturers around the world are facing many complicated challenges to renew and evolve their manufacturing with the requirements of the post-COVID world. In addition to responding to these technological innovations and changes in products and manufacturing methods, manufacturers’ emphasis is placed on the transformation of manufacturing processes that takes into consideration the global environment that is seeing addition of many more aspects such as Social Development Goals (SDGs), diversification of people’s values, and the wellbeing of their employees.
The renewal of our innovative-Automation manufacturing concept means we aim for on-site innovation by embodying three capabilities: “Autonomation beyond human abilities,” “Advanced collaboration between people and machines,” and “Digital engineering transformation” in many segments and not just restrict ourselves to the ones we are already good at, or we have developed a forte. This means we are all set to expand ourselves to explore newer segments such as logistics and environment friendly or new energy vehicles along with going deeper in our existing areas – digital, medical, FMCG and the like.
Hence, as we look ahead to broaden our horizons in order to realise this long-term vision of innovative-Automation, we have identified Logistics as a new and promising segment .With a CAGR% of >14% growth in Asia Pacific region according to Logistics IQ research, we strongly feel it would not only contribute significantly to our business in terms of growth opportunities but also will give us immense scope to solve more issues that supply chain players are faced within the post pandemic world like addressing labour shortages and stepping up to the mass customisation needs of the industry. Inspired by OMRON’s philosophy of solving real problems together with our customers so that we accelerate our growth mutually through Innovations driven by social needs, we strongly believe that we are at the right time and the right place to enter the logistics segment.
OMRON MoMA(Mobile Manipulator) working on packing process.
What potential does Industry 4.0 holds for transforming the Logistic industry?
Industry 4.0 is making many changes across business models and their production chains supporting them. Many of these changes are disruptive in nature and logistics, which is the fundamental and one of the most important constituents of these processes, is bound to get impacted by these significant changes. This is already evident with the changing dynamics around speed, magnitude, and depth in the segment. All this necessitates advanced, technology led applications delivering interconnected and real time information and super optimized time and resources, highlighting immense potential of Industry 4.0 for value generation in the logistics industry to maintain competitiveness.
Also, in recent years we have worked tirelessly to realise automation of manufacturing sites by “integrating” high-speed and high precision control application technologies, making full use of IoT and AI to create “intelligent” equipment and production lines, and achieving “interactive” harmonization between people and machines.
Endowed and empowered with this knowledge in understanding production line optimisation, we believe we can map this knowledge into the logistics environment. We can leverage the usage of edge-sensors, using our expertise in installing and providing this type of “component” to extract data helping 3PL/supply chain owners to digitise and optimise to improve productivity and efficiency in supply chain workflows and operations.
How do you visualize the current adoption of Industry 4.0 in the Logistics industry in the Asia Pacific region?
The trend is definitely very positive and enthusiastic indicating a bright future for the automation solutions providers for the logistics industry in APAC. From that same IQ Research report, the demand for warehouse automation equipment is expected to grow with a CAGR% of >14% for the next 5 years with even higher growth in sub-countries in the APAC region in both developed and emerging countries.
The acceleration of adoption of automation in the post COVID world, shortage of warehouse resources and skilled labour are few of the more important factors that will fuel this growth at least for the next three to five years. Most of the APAC markets are non-homogeneous in terms of the level of automation needs, their knowledge and maturity are also diverse. Hence, we feel it would be an enriching challenge for OMRON to solve real problems of the supply chain management sector and generate real value through our innovative-Automation based solutions.
APAC is a very diverse region. Are there sub-geographic differences in the adoption of Industry 4.0?
The APAC ecosystem and dynamics is non-homogenous. We cater to around 8 countries in the region. Some of them are emerging and some are developed. The level of adoption of industrial automation is far from being consistent giving rise to multifarious, unique, and complicated business challenges. For instance, in some emerging countries, we must cater to the needs of basic digitisation to capture real data. This is necessary to understand the needs and optimisation levels before moving into full-fledged solutions While in developed countries that have embraced innovation, we need to convince the stakeholders to balance between ROI (return-on-investment) and innovation to make life better for workers. We see that especially in developed countries, who are higher up the automation curve where the end-customers are more open and willing to take automation to the next level, for example realising applications like having platforms to track productivity in each workflow & operation and having robots travelling into elevators for multi-level operations, etc.
What are the challenges the logistics segment is facing in terms of adoption of I 4.0? What are the opportunities and trends in store?
One of the key challenges that we can identify is the initial capital expenditure required to make the digital pivot. Although the value that will be unlocked is manifold, the time and cost are primary concerns. This is where OMRON aims to create a difference and bring value by playing the role of a true automation partner, taking a consultative approach to ensure a tailor-made plan to suit an existing facility in the best possible manner. The advance proof of concepts and digitalization tools we use, enable our customers to visualize the system and its benefits beforehand.
Looking ahead, intralogistics is expected to move towards data and analytics to identify gaps and bottlenecks in warehouse operations. Most organisations pursue it actively to seek improvement in productivity and efficiency. With the use of more data analytics and AI inside the warehouse, we can also expect a very healthy growth in deployment of robotics & AI solutions– ranging from WMS integration (perhaps through cloud) to multiple modes of material transfer (both horizontal and vertical), automated cross-docks, picking, sorting, packaging, etc. More usage of smart 3D vision, deeper exploration into assets traceability using GPS/5G both within and outside the warehouses is also on the cards.
Relying on our level of expertise and overarching knowledge from manufacturing to Logistics, we sense a vast opportunity for OMRON to take deeper plunge and to leverage on these trends.
Importance of sustainable supply chains and how automation can help here?
From replacement to collaboration, the manufacturing world has been witnessing a significant transition in the human-machine relationship over the last few decades. One of the primary characteristics of this evolution is the merging of boundaries between factories and society necessitating the transition from collaboration to “harmony between people and machines” in the manufacturing sector.
With climate change and unprecedented situation from COVID, consumption orientation is getting replaced with sustenance orientation. The makers are now pondering over social needs, more than ever, rather than only industry and production-based needs. All this, in turn, is demanding the data efficiency driven systems to do more by transitioning to knowledge driven systems thus delivering more sustainable results and sustainable entities.
Keeping in view this transition towards sustainability, OMRON has outlined its direction as “Empowering people through automation” for its next long- term vision- “Shaping the Future 2030” (SF 2030). For the automation business, we will undertake deployment of innovative-Automation concept to bring in more technological innovation and enhance respect for the environment too because we believe both are essential for manufacturing & production sites. We feel that if we do this right, we will be able to contribute to a sustainable future based on harmony between people and machines.
How is OMRON striving to capitalise on these trends and enhance the adoption of automation in the logistics / SCM segment?
We are dedicatedly working towards highlighting the value created by OMRON in the segment to the stakeholders by showcasing the utility of our solutions and the potential it holds to solve current and future challenges through co-creation and co-development.
One of the important endeavours here is to set up exclusive facilities such as Logistics 4.0 Solutions Development Centre to showcase OMRON solutions so that customers will be able to experience real time how our solutions could benefit them and have a productive discussion with us on how we can help them automate their warehouses and other facilities integrated in the whole supply chain. It will also help us strike a chord with like-minded organisations to curate conceptual designs and PoCs (proof-of-concepts) through co-development and co-creation of solutions making us reach the next important step of industrializing and commercialising the solutions.
OMRON HD-2500 transporting pallets from point-to-point.
What are the future trends for logistics industry in Intralogistics?
Traditionally, the logistics industry in intralogistics has been is a very labour-intensive field requiring many skilled workers. For example, forklift drivers, pickers, packers, quality inspectors and so forth, etc. Over last few years, the warehouse operators owners have been feeling pressured by their end-customers to improve efficiency and productivity with less human errors and goods returns. This can only be achieved with enhanced automation processes in warehouses.
Hence, the segment has started deploying robotics automation more intensely to replace YoY skilled labour demand and to deal with the steadily declining availability of manual workforce at the warehouses. Robotics also aids in automating various workflows in material transport, storage, picking, sorting and packing.
This trend makes us believe that the adoption of robotics solutions across warehouses is expected to increase over the next 3-5 years contributing towards the growth of the warehouse automation segment.
The future will also have in store see the advent of more dark warehouses. Digitisation upstream with full integration of WMS with ERP and also deeper data analytics to analyse the efficiency and productivity of warehouse workers, and all workflows to optimise throughput.
OMRON is quite upbeat on about this trend. We offer solutions into all these workflows by working closely with partners to address the customers’ needs. Empowered with our wide breath of robotics solutions and strong expertise in automation, we aim to explore and make further inroads with the right partners into niche areas of warehouse automation – automated container loading, unloading, vertical storage and picking optimization to name just a few. These areas indicate real gaps and challenges in intralogistics which we feel have the most potential for automation.
What is OMRON’s long term vision in APAC?
Based on our global vision for the industrial automation business – “Enriching the Future for People, Industries and the Globe by Innovative Automation”, we aim to translate it in the APAC region by working together with the customers and partners to solve the issues of the manufacturing industry.
Strongly believing in creating human-machine harmony at the shop floors, we will continue to bring in advanced ILOR+S (Input, Logic, Output, Robotics and Safety) solutions based on our futuristic concept of innovative-Automation for solving innumerable issues at the shop floor ranging from productivity to quality, speed to safety.
Our long-term vision – Shaping The Future 2030 (SF 2030)- takes into cognizance account the fast changing, dynamic, diversified, and complex world of manufacturing led by Industry 4.0 and& digitisation in the APAC region. We believe that with our unique automation capabilities based on human machine harmony, we will be able to contribute towards creation of sustainable and innovative factories coexisting with the environment and wellbeing of people.