Thailand advised to take advantage of popularity of robots
Thailand needs to capitalise on the rise of robotics and automation in manufacturing to improve productivity and create new innovate services, in addition to enhancing the human workforce so that employees replaced by automation can find jobs, says an EEC adviser.
The robotics cluster in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) targets investment of 300 billion baht in the industry over the next three years.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, the growth of the Thai robotics and automation industry this year is expected to 19%, the highest in Asean and fourth highest in the world.
Since the Board of Investment (BoI) offered incentives for the robotics cluster, one of 12 industries in the S-curve, Thailand has attracted foreign investment worth 90 billion baht, with several projects applying to the BoI last year, said Djitt Laowattana, a committee member for the robotics cluster and executive adviser for the EEC.
The figure remains far below the 150 billion baht in investment targeted for last year, but he believes the number will reach 300 billion in the next three years.
Investment in robotics will help offset the import deficit, which costs the country 150-200 billion baht a year, said Mr Djitt.
Some 85% of local manufacturers should use automation and robotics to cut costs and stay competitive, he said.
For medium-size plants, a robot can replace two human workers, with the investment breaking even in 18 months, said Mr Djitt.
He said studies estimate automation and robotics will replace 1.9 million jobs globally by 2020, but another 2.3 million jobs will be created by new technologies.
Demand for robotics will continue to grow, in particular for Japanese manufacturing that plans to roll out smart connected factories in Thailand, said Mr Djitt. China also plans to widen its robotics usage overseas, with the EEC among strategic satellite locations.
He said training in new skills to use automation and robotics properly are vital, such as language communication in robots, natural language processing, semantic coding that understands the context/culture of local speaking styles, and application programming interface to integrate systems.
To help Thailand attract more investment in robotics to drive industry, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has committed to focus more trade exhibition on robotics, said Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice-president of TCEB.
Speaking at the same forum, Mrs Nichapa said TCEB is negotiating with potential partners to attract German and Japanese robotics and automation events to make Thailand a robotics hub trade show in Asean.
Five robotics-related events TCEB supports are Intermach, Propak Asia, Manufacturing Expo, Metalex and Automach.
TCEB will rebrand Automach to Automation Expo to become a leading platform for automation and robotic technology. The expo is scheduled for March 14-16 at Nongnooch Pattaya International Convention and Exhibition in Chon Buri.