Challenges facing innovation goal
Thailand has devised a long-term master plan in its efforts to rise from a middle-income to a high-income country by adopting Thailand 4.0, which aims to upgrade local industry to suit the era of Industry 4.0 by using technology and innovation to create value-added products.
Chen: Difficult to change attitudes
The business sector sees several challenges lying ahead, signalling that Thai industry needs to make crucial adjustments to reach the goal.
Chen Namchaisiri, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said Thailand 4.0 is the biggest change for the industrial sector that will generate rising income and improve Thai industry to a high-tech one that will rely less and less on a human workforce.
In his view, the biggest challenge for industries to achieve Thailand 4.0 is the right attitude.
"The hardest thing is how to change the attitude of the Thai people and also the Thai industry," Mr Chen said. "It is difficult to make them see that they need to be high-tech."
He said all industrial sectors need to realise they can no longer rely on a labour-intensive approach, as the minimum wage is rising every year.
Mr Chen said most Thai industries are in the 2.0-2.5 era, which still relies on a human workforce. Only a few sectors are in the 3.0 era, using heavy machinery, but they have not yet switched to fully automated systems with robots and high-tech machines.
"The FTI aims to push Thailand 4.0 forward by encouraging local industries to use more automated systems in their production line," Mr Chen said.
He said some industrial sectors are gradually automating in order to cut production costs, but it will take a long time to break-even.
"It is the way we need to go in order to create added value to Thai industries," he said.
He said the FTI supports companies switching to higher technology to replace human workers because it reduces labour costs. At the same time, all related agencies need to work together in order to improve workforce quality to be compatible with higher technology.
He said the changes in production technology should correlate with the different demands within each industry, otherwise it will not result in reduced production costs.
To achieve the goals of Thailand 4.0, all government agencies as well as related private groups need to work closely in supporting gradual industrial change towards the new era.
The Industry Ministry, the Science and Technology Ministry and the FTI are working on initiating several projects to introduce new technology to Thai industries and encourage the use of advanced technology.
Mr Chen said the government should support the development of online facilities in order to help expand e-commerce, e-payment, e-learning and e-documents, which will lead Thailand into a fully online platform to meet the 4.0 era.
He said the FTI is now working with the Commerce Ministry's Department of International Trade Promotion to create a programme that helps detect the details of imported and exported goods.