SME players can begin journey towards IR 4.0 with a small step — MTDC CEO

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 1): A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and that maiden step does not have to be a large one.

That is the message conveyed by Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) chief executive officer Datuk Norhalim Yunus to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which still generally have a low awareness on the importance of changing the way they work and their productivity, based on technology and innovation.

Only a few of the country's SME players had begun the migration towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) platform, he told Bernama Radio at the MTDC Technology Conference & Exhibition 2019 here today.

He pointed out that the International Trade and Industry Ministry had so far received only about 600 Industry4WRD Readiness Assessment applications, although there were more than 80,000 SMEs registered in the country.

SME players, he said, needed to view IR 4.0 as a “national narrative” driven by a concerted effort that was implemented in stages and with consistency.

“The move towards IR 4.0 should be started now even without a high technology content. What is important is the SME players must have the aspiration or vision to raise their companies’ capabilities.

“Therefore, MTDC advises them to start by adopting one of the easiest thrusts under the Industry 4.0 hub, the Centre of 9 Pillars (Co9P),” he said.

Norhalim said SME players should realise that the transformation towards IR 4.0 could be carried out in stages, depending on their capital and workforce constraints.

“For example, the easiest thing for the SME company may be to kick off a process or migration towards automation. Or if the company already owns the machinery, the easiest move can be to instal a detector or to collect and process data.

“We want to show (the SMEs) that the process towards IR 4.0 is actually not difficult. It is a journey, a marathon that begins with a small step. What is important is the effort towards achieving the goal,” he said.

In fact, Norhalim said, the first step towards IR 4.0 need not involve costly machinery, robotics or innovation; instead it must suit the company's capability while optimising productivity.

“If we can secure the most sophisticated innovation but cannot apply it, it is meaningless. So the SMEs have to understand that they need to choose an optimal and affordable equipment or technology system that can be innovated further in the long term in line with their business.

“We also encourage SME entrepreneurs to collaborate with institutes of higher learning and research and development as well as innovation-related agencies to take advantage of existing technologies and innovations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Strand Aerospace Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Naguib Mohd Nor, one of the panellists at the two-day event that began today, said the first step towards a change of mindset based on IR 4.0 should begin at the leadership and managerial levels.

“It also depends on the human resources management method of the company. All this while, the workforce is often viewed as a cost element rather than a company asset. This kind of thinking must be completely changed.

“Aerospace firms such as Airbus and Boeing have begun to give priority to highly-skilled workforce to spearhead IR 4.0 applications,” he added. — Bernama