Bid to boost tech among small manufacturers

Bid to boost tech among small manufacturers

The Industry Ministry is preparing to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) upgrade their factory technology to robotic and automation systems under a 2.5-billion-baht soft loan programme.

Only 25% of factories in Thailand currently use robotics, automation and systems integration (SI), according to the Office of Industrial Economics (OIE).

The soft loan, with an annual interest rate of 1%, will help SMEs improve and modernise their factory operations in line with the government's Thailand 4.0 scheme, which emphasises a transition to technological advances and high-level services.

The money is being allocated from an SME fund under the Pracha Rat scheme.

Authorities want to see factories adopt new technology, add value to their products and reduce any unpleasant impacts caused during production processes on the environment, said Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit.

"The government wants to improve the business efficiency of SMEs in a bid to boost the overall economy," he said.

More domestic production utilising robots will reduce imports of robotic technology by 12%, says the OIE.

In 2017, the cabinet approved a robotics and automation development plan in a move to support S-curve industries.

"The government expects the plan will lead to robotics and automation investment worth more than 200 billion baht in 2021 and help reduce imports of robotic and automation technology," said Thongchai Chawalitpichaet, chief of the OIE.

Thailand aims to be a robotics and automation hub in Asean by 2026.

The government plans to increase the number of SI experts to 1,400, up from 200 at present, to serve demand for the integration of robotic and factory operation systems and prepare for the installation of automation technology nationwide.

Panuwat Triyangkulsri, deputy permanent secretary for industry and president of the Center of Robotic Excellence, said the centre would help to train workers in the new technology in order to develop skills required in the 21st century.

The Board of Investment also plays an important role in promoting manufacturing efficiency.

It offers a 50% reduction of corporate income tax for three years for investment projects that are aimed at upgrading technology and improving production.

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