Mr. Raymond SHAN,
Greater Bay Area (GBA) Business Development
Hong Kong Productivity Council and Certified Industrie 4.0 Expert & Principal Advisor (GBA)
Fraunhofer IPT Germany
Q:Mr. Shan, I know that HKPC is the pioneer to transfer Industry 4.0 in Mainland and HK since 2013, would you introduce us about the whole i4.0 business & technology deployment strategy by HKPC and what outcome have been achieved so far?
A:HKPC started to initiate “Intelligent Manufacturing (i-mfg)” in HK through the funding support by the Innovation & Technology Commission (ITC) of the HKSAR Government in 2011. We successfully developed the first “i-mfg Technology Demonstration Center” through mould & die production. The center demonstrated Flexible Manufacturing Cell (FMC), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Autonomous Production by Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Execution System (AMES). We also invented an IIoT device namely “Smart Patch” to enable all legacy hardware and machine without IIoT connectivity capability to get connected for real time data acquisition. The “Smart Patch” has been widely commercialised in the GBA market and recently achieved the Gold Medal with Congratulation of Jury (GCJ) from the International Geneva Award, 2022. To step further into the intelligent technology development, Industry 4.0 (i4.0) was launched in Guangdong -Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) in collaborating with Fraunhofer IPT, Germany since year 2013. HKPC entered a MOU with Fraunhofer IPT to establish the first “i4.0 Demonstration Factory – Digital@HKPC” and “Invention Center – The Hatch@HKPC” to promote i4.0 in GBA. HKPC & Fraunhofer IPT jointly derived the “i4.0 Maturity Level and Recognition Programme” for supporting various industry sectors to migrate to i4.0 step-by-step with the aid of GBA dedicated government funding support. Up to now, we have successfully developed over 20+ sector-specific implementation methodology for upgrading OBM, ODM and OEM manufacturers in GBA with proven business value achieved by them. In 2018, HKPC collaborated with Paper Communication Exhibition Services to compile the first “Guangdong -Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) Smart Innovation & Smart Manufacturing Leading Index” to study the current i4.0 maturity level & pain points in the GBA. The study concluded that manufacturers from twelve industry sectors were eager for i4.0 migration in order to enhance their productivity and maintain overall market competitiveness. HKPC is invited by Paper Communication Exhibition Services as the i4.0 advisor to “DMP GBA Industrial Expo” in Shenzhen since 2019 to provide i4.0 expert advise for the overall expo direction and content development related to i4.0. To further promote i4.0 Cyber Physical Production System (CPPS) at the DMP, HKPC collaborated with CG Tech and HuazhongCNC to setup the first “i4.0 CPPS Technology Transfer Center” in GBA and demonstrated the whole i4.0 technological concept with various types of digitalization contents from Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) to Digital i4.0 Solution (D4S) for realizing enterprises’ end-to-end vertical integration. Recently HKPC and the RWTH Aachen Campus, Germany jointly establish the “Hong Kong Industrial Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Centre (FLAIR)” which is one of the two world-class research clusters being established by InnoHK Clusters of the HKSAR Government to support Hong Kong in developing into an international innovation & technology hub. The success of the joint deployment marks a significant milestone in GBA industry upgrade and paved the way for revitalizing Hong Kong Industry via the “Reindustrialisation” initiated by the HKSAR Government where a dedicated funding of 2 billion was injected to accelerate manufacturers to setup i4.0 smart production line in Hong Kong for contributing the overall manufacturing GDP, high-end talent development, high technological content product production, etc. HKPC has been providing i4.0 technology and training for some prominent sectors including Food, Health, Green, Textile and Construction in particular. In 2021, HKPC also collaborated with the University of Hong Kong to conduct a reindustrialisation study to identify the most prominent sectors in Hong Kong that could be either established or upgraded by i4.0 smartification concept. Among all others, the “Next Generation of Semiconductor” would be one of our next foci to develop Hong Kong as the “International Invention Center” under the “China’s 14th Five-Year Plan”.
Q:How do you actually help GBA industry to maintain their competitiveness through i4.0 smart manufacturing migration by HKPC?
A:The biggest challenge of GBA industry towards i4.0 is about the understanding of the business benefits of i4.0 and its technological content involved if industry would like to pursue. Apart from setting up the technology center I just mentioned, HKPC organized a series of industry education activities together with Fraunhofer IPT and other related technology solution providers to accelerate their understanding and potential applications. i4.0 is about to drive “Smartification“ for the entire value chain in order to create business value via new digital business models. To this end, HKPC derived a dedicated value chain model namely “Customer-Manufacturer-Consumer (CMC)” Cycle to let industry to understand i4.0 end-to-end. Within the CMC cycle, a series of enabling and application technologies are identified and suggested to be adopted for realizing the value chain “Smartification”, “Self-optimization” and hence “Self-organizing” in order to achieve the ultimate goal of i4.0.
To accelerate the migration to i4.0, HKPC developed the “i4.0 Maturity Level & Recognition Programnme” together with Fraunhofer IPT to help industry going forward step-by-step. The five maturity levels from 0i to 4i defined clearly the content, relationship and goals of i4.0 where various industrial sectors could adopt based on their industry-specific product development process, business operation and production technology uniqueness, we called “Sector-specific Approach”. Until today over 20+ industrial sectors such as plastic, mould & die, metal, automotive components, printing, critical components, electronics, machinery, logistics, etc. have implemented i4.0 with the technology and advisory support by HKPC. During implementation, we also suggested industry to apply relevant funding and incentive from GBA’s government to lower their overall investment and hence accelerate their i4.0 upgrade decision. There are many successful i4.0 cases established that were funded by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China, Innovation & Technology Commission (ITC) and Trade & Industry Department (TID) of the HKSAR Government since i4.0 launched in GBA by HKPC.
Q:At present, we have been talking pretty much on sustainability, upskilling and flexibility recently, how do you see their value from the i4.0 perspective?
A:Environmental protection is of utmost important to everybody in the globe that we need to pay extra effort to preserve for sustainability. Upskilling for everybody is a must for driving continuous innovation for enhancing people living standard. Supply chain resilience is one of the essential moves to cope with instant market demand and supply stability. To this end, HKPC and Fraunhofer IPT first coined “i4.0 & Beyond” in 2021 to strategically include “Sustainability”, “Humanification” and “Resilience” as the future key elements to cater future global needs.
Eco-design and manufacturing to govern the entire product realization process in a more environmental friendly way should be encouraged. Manufacturers shall impose the action of “Design for Environment (DfE)” apart from only focusing on the last mile of recycling activities including Reduce, Reuse & Recycle (3R), disposal treatment, etc. According to the recommendations of the World Economic Forum (WMF), the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) study, HKPC has developed a series of “FutureSkills” programme to provide holistic upskilling training activities from primary school till industry stakeholders. In terms of the Human Machine Interface (HMI) technology, HKPC has been certainly making significant contribution on HMI development to proactively increase industry work efficiency, realize ergonomic workplace, resolve Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) they are exposing daily by adopting advanced technologies such as “Collaborative Robotics”, “Augmented Reality” or even “Metaverse” which is the latest “Virtualisation” technology to build and enhance everything in a virtual world without deploying physical resources needed and geographical limitation. Therefore, all those new thoughts are already injected into the coined “i4.0 & Beyond” initiative which should be considered and act fast by industry.
Q:Thanks Mr. Shan for your insightful future development perspective about i4.0, let’s talk about the i4.0 roll out steps by industry you would suggest to industry. So, what is the step foundation of i4.0 that needed to be considered in a typical manufacturing environment if industry would like to implement i4.0 properly and wisely?
A:The foundation of i4.0 is about three important building blocks namely “Digitalization-Connectivity-Cyber Security” where an enterprise should build their foundation by 1. Digitizing the entire business process end-to-end, 2. Connecting all involved hardware through IIoT and 3. Protecting physical assets and data through Cyber Security measures. By then, real time data from four data categories including machine, production, quality and energy could be acquired to establish the so called “Single Source of Truth (SSoT)” for next level of optimization by “Smart Data Analytic (SDA)”. The established SSoT could provide centralized data resource for process owners to realize Quick Response Management (QRM) for enhancing production efficiency & quality such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), Predictive Maintenance, Yield Rate, Cost of Quality (CoQ), Inventory Turnover, etc.
Q:Mr. Shan, you mentioned about the hardware connectivity by IIoT essentially, what do you expect about the development & adoption trend of future communication protocols that could bring more benefit and value to industry?
A:At present, there are numerous communication protocols for enabling hardware connection for the purpose of real time data acquisition and autonomous production via Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as EtherCAT, Profinet/Profibus, Modbus, OPC UA, etc. Different common protocols have their own pros and cons that manufacturers may consider to choose to maximize their intended benefits based on their factory environment and application. Among all others, OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is an open-source cross-platform where data exchange from sensors to cloud applications based on IEC 62541 standard is realized. OPC UA is not proprietary and open-sourced which means everyone can use it free of charge. OPC UA can apply both Client/Server and Pub/Sub which is great for working with high frequency data (1-10 ms range) while Client/Server is great for working with low-frequency data (10 ms and above) for enhancing close-loop optimization from Machine to Machine (M2M) and connected machine cluster to the cloud in real time basis. Recently, the industrial networks tend to connect to Cloud and realize the integration of OT and IT to achieve “Vertical & Horizontal Integration” by IIoT. Hence, the security becomes the one of the biggest demands. OPC UA uses encryption, signature, user authentication, access control, session management, etc. to reach in-depth defense layer by layer which could definitely provide a more secured IIoT environment. Last but not least, the outstanding features of OPC UA is the information model which excels other communication protocols. The information model of OPC UA is derived from the idea of “Object-Oriented Programming (OOP)” which is well-structured and also the most suitable for the actual usage. “Smart Data Analytics” and applications are the future and a well-structured data platform is critical. OPC UA can express complex data relationships in a standard format which is more appropriate for machine connectivity to achieve the goal of i4.0.
From a macroscopic view, OPC Foundation has over 850 members which are varied from small integrators to the largest industrial suppliers, such as Siemens, Beckhoff, Volkswagen, Bayer, Samsung, LG CNS, etc. In Mainland of China, OPC UA has officially been approved as recommended National Standards since 2017. These imply that many worldwide suppliers will adopt OPC UA in their operation as a critical step toward i4.0. Therefore, I am glad to see the cooperation of FuMaTech & IRACE in collaborating with Paper Communication Exhibitions Services to establish this international platform in GBA for future technology promotion and industry exchange in particularly about the Future Communication Unification (FCU) concept and associated technology to be adopted very soon.
Q:Last but not least Mr. Shan, what recommendations would you suggest to propel the future connectivity in the industry environment for benefiting industry?
A:The ultimate goal of i4.0 is about the digitalisation and connectivity of the entire value chain which is what we called “Horizontal Integration”. To enable this we need a cost effective connectivity solutions among all others technologies involved, therefore, what we can do for the industry is to start with the technology promotion about the FCU concept through seminar, workshop, on-site appreciation, etc. We may also ride on the government funding to setup an “OPC UA enabled Digital Factory” showing the unified connectivity and optimization benefits so that they can benchmark for immediate deployment. With this leading OPC UA setup, on-the-job training can be provided for those i4.0, process and ICT engineers to acquire the hands on experience for this latest connectivity technology. Meanwhile, all the involved hardware and solution providers can participate in this OPC UA platform to demonstrate their IIoT-ready capability for potential business collaboration. HKPC can also establish a series of OPC UA enable sector-specific cases so that everyone in the industry can follow through by this catalytic action.