(File pix) “Malaysia is firming up its position as one of the largest solar panel producing nations and overtaking much larger competitor nations as world-class companies start to expand their capacities in Malaysia.”

ONLY 25 of 100 countries evaluated by the World Economic Forum are positioned to benefit from Industry 4.0. Malaysia is one of them.

In a report, “Readiness for the Future of Production”, the researchers used new benchmarks, diagnostic tools and data to help countries understand their readiness for the future of production, as well as corresponding opportunities and challenges.

The assessment framework has two main components: “Structure of production” (a country’s baseline of production), and “drivers of production” (the key enablers that position a state to transform production systems and capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR).

There are 59 indicators across these two components. The report defines “readiness” as the ability to capitalise on future production opportunities, mitigate risks and challenges, and be resilient and agile in responding to unknown future shocks.

One example of companies leading the way into the future of production in Malaysia is First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar energy solutions with more than 10GW installed worldwide.

This installed capacity produces enough clean electricity annually to power five million households, save more than 18 billion litres of water, displace seven million metric tons of CO2 per year, and reduce other air pollutants by 89 to 98 per cent.

This American company started operation in 2008 and Malaysia hosts the largest high-technology manufacturing site for First Solar’s advanced thin- film PV modules.

The 65ha Kulim High-Tech Park employs talent from universities and provides the community with high-tech jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri led a delegation from Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) to First Solar Malaysia.

“Strategic investments by global technology and manufacturing leaders like First Solar will help Malaysia realise its 4IR goal and our local talent will also gain from the exposure and become world class.”

First Solar Malaysia managing director Datuk P’ng Soo Hong said: “First Solar chose Malaysia as a base due to the ability to find and retain good talent, well developed and excellent infrastructure, political stability and pro-business government policies.

“Malaysia is firming up its position as one of the largest solar panel producing nations and overtaking much larger competitor nations as world-class companies start to expand their capacities in Malaysia.”

The government’s efforts to provide free education have contributed to the development of a skilled workforce in the country. Coupled with the population’s command of the English language, foreign investors in Malaysia can expect accessibility to a valuable pool of local talent to help further their business ambitions.

Recently, Malaysia secured 27th place in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018. It was ranked among the top 10 most talented competitive countries in Asia Pacific, beating South Korea.

Based on the “Malaysian Solar PV Roadmap” prepared by Might, Malaysia is on course to becoming a major player in the solar power industry, particularly in the manufacture of solar PV cells and modules.

Malaysia is the third largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the world, after China and Taiwan. Malaysia has an almost complete solar ecosystem of some 250 companies involved in upstream (producing wafers and cells) and downstream (inverters and system integrators) activities.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority said the value of exports by solar manufacturing companies here was RM11.1 billion while local sourcing activities were valued at RM1.42 billion in 2016.

Manufacturers talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of using new technologies such as sensors, robotics, and data analytics to gain insights into product use, improved productivity and improved competitiveness.

New techniques will change the products, processes, and relationships involved in every aspect of industry. Better customer experiences, higher levels of efficiency and more highly skilled jobs will be part and parcel of the 4IR journey.

The opportunity is clear, but this will disrupt traditional business models.

Our local high technology industry cannot, however, opt out. 4IR is upon us, whether we like it or not. The world turns, as always. But now it turns on a dime, or rather a computer chip.

Zakri Abdul Hamid is the science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). He can be reached via zakri@pmo.gov.my

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