The end of 2019 saw the sudden arrival of COVID-19, severely impacting the global economy. The entire manufacturing industry was also hit in the process, as global demand dropped, works disrupted, and raw material supply was constrained. Nevertheless, the manufacturing industry is prone to fast recovery: as economy rebounded in 2021, the manufacturing industry as a whole was also rekindled.
The sudden spike in global demand also brought the importance of smart manufacturing to the forefront: more and more industrial sectors have been gripped by the trend as R&D, design and manufacturing processes migrated to cloud, and AI, 5G, AR and automation grew in prevalence.
In response, a growing number of enterprises have begun to train their manufacturing professionals in AI, and leading semiconductor companies are also sending data scientists to solve the issues at frontend fabs. All in all, we are seeing an exponential growth in digital solutions for operational issues on the manufacturing lines, and ever more service providers are designing tools to facilitate even more automation and digitalization.
Growing competitions from China and Southeast Asia
Apart from some new semiconductor fabrication facilities, however, the majority of Taiwanese factories have been operating for 10-20 years or even longer, rendering it hard to upgrade them.
A variety of obstacles hinder such upgrades: apart from the lack of data transparency, factories established in different periods have discrepant standards of decision-making, management processes and data systems. As a result, upgrades and “intelligentization” at a corporate level becomes difficult, since each factory effectively becomes a state within a state. Given the aforementioned circumstances, a significant challenge in the course of upgrading Taiwanese manufacturing industry will be data standardization, so as to facilitate the internal coordination of an enterprise.
Taiwan’s manufacturing industry is facing an inevitable drive to transform itself. Apart from post-pandemic challenges, the rise of China and Southeast Asia as new manufacturing bases are forcing Taiwan’s manufacturing industry to relinquish its hitherto low-value and low-margin sectors. Instead, smart manufacturing, through which enterprises can reduce risks, shorten the time to market, lower production costs, and better utilize the assets at disposal, will characterize Taiwan’s manufacturing industry in the coming years.
About the author: Jack Wang serves as TCE Application Development Manager in Rockwell Automation.