Collaborative robots (COBOTS) powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be the norm in the cutting edge facility of SMART Modular Technologies in Penang, Malaysia.
Headquartered in Newark, California, SMART designs, manufactures and supplies electronic subsystems to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the computer, industrial, networking, telecommunications, aerospace and defense markets.
According to its website, the company has developed a comprehensive product line that includes DRAM and Flash memory technologies across various form factors, and it has a presence in the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
The operation relies heavily on its Malaysian manufacturing operations in Penang, a key supply chain location for the Asian electronics market.
The company is currently upgrading its Penang operations to be a cutting-edge facility for Industry 4.0 manufacturing processes in collaboration with IBM Services in Malaysia.
To support its move to Industry 4.0 practices, IBM said it has developed and trained artificial intelligence-enabled collaborative robots, which would allow SMART to test stations on the manufacturing floor to automate and improve testing capabilities.
The solution includes an intuitive toolset that empowers subject matter experts to label, train, and deploy deep learning vision models, without coding or deep learning expertise.
So when the product reaches the end of the line before it is boxed and shipped, for example, the collaborative robots can spot defects and remove them from the production line.
“Our vision of a highly digitized and connected manufacturing operations is possible through factory automation which was instrumental in enabling our operations to be highly productive and efficient with a pool of upskilled workforce to compete in Industry 4.0,” said Jack Pacheco, SMART Global Holdings Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer.
“We believe SMART’s manufacturing upgrade investments embodies the Malaysian government’s vision for a Digital Economy, by adopting agile, innovative and game-changing technologies to prepare for Industry 4.0,” he added.
Automating the manufacturing process
The first phase of SMART’s IBM engagement included the delivery of IBM Enterprise Design Thinking workshops to identify new opportunities in the manufacturing process, including the introduction of automation.
The second phase is focused on continued factory automation and is currently in progress.
“The collaborative robot and autonomous product testing would be the way of life in SMART’s operations,” Pacheco said.
In parallel with factory automation, IBM is also set to launch a new skills program to upskill and reskill its workforce with new capabilities and expertise aligned to key Industry 4.0 needs such as AI, manufacturing services integration, and data analytics.
“The dawn of Industry 4.0 has compelled key industries such as manufacturing to tap into disruptive technologies to transform their operations and equip their workforce with skills of the future,” said Catherine Lian, Managing Director, IBM Malaysia.
“We see this collaboration between SMART and IBM as a step forward for the manufacturing sector,” she added.
FutureIoT recently published a report on Malaysia’s potential to achieve productivity gains of up to $30 billion for its manufacturing sector if it adopts Industry 4.0 technologies. The study believes that as one of the key manufacturing hubs in the country, Penang must lead the way in Industry 4.0 efforts.