Growth through technology, teamwork

Advantech co-founder and executive director of the board Chaney Ho is bullish on U.S. role in IIoT revolution.

By Bob Vavra, Content Manager, Plant Engineering August 6, 2018

Manufacturing plants are getting older. So are manufacturing’s workers. Advantech co-founder and Executive Director of Board Chaney Ho believes the way to change that is to invest in both people and processes bring young people in touch with a modern plant.

"U.S. manufacturing facilities aren’t very advanced at the moment," said Ho in an exclusive interview with Plant Engineering. "I fully agree we need to work together to promote concept of Industrial IIoT (Internet of Things) to modernize the manufacturing process. This will increase quality of product, it will shorten cycle time, reduce scrap, and increase the efficiency of equipment."

While global IIoT growth has been significant in the past few years, Ho believes the U.S market is the key to wider adoption of the technology. "The U.S. always has taken the leadership role in technology adoption," he said. "Now the U.S. is short of workers. If they want to attract more manufacturing back to the U.S., automation is the only way to go.

"I predict because of the tax reform and the reduction in the corporate tax rate, this will attract more foreign direct investment in the U.S.," Ho added.

He said Advantech, founded in Taiwan in 1983, will be part of that wave of investment. "I personally believe North America is the most important market in the world for Industrial IoT," he said. "In the IIoT sector, there’s been growth across all countries, and we’ve seen very strong demand. The U.S. market will become even more important."

Despite the rosy future for IIoT, implementation hasn’t kept pace with the fervor around the technology. Ho believes there are several reasons for this. "The first barrier is understanding IIoT from an objective point of view," he said. "CEOs and CTOs should understand the IIoT-what it is and how it can bring benefit to an operation. Only thing the CEO needs to understand is that this technology is critical to success. After that, the technology is there and the solution is there. The you need to do the training and education for the engineer to let them know step by step how to implement IIoT."

There are four steps in that process, Ho said:

1. Reducing cost through machine automation: "You need to adopt computer vision systems," he said. "For the semiconductor industry, this is quite advanced today, but for legacy manufacturing, automation is still far away."
2. Machine connection and data collection: "You need to understand your production machine status in real time. That will influence the life of your machine," he said. "By connecting all machines with the gateway and the cloud, we can understand the machine status in real time."
3. Data visualization: "You want to make the data transparent so everyone can understand the status of the manufacturing on a real-time basis," Ho said. "When the workers and manager understand all the real-time data, the plant efficiency improves 10-15% automatically."
4. Adopt artificial intelligence: By collecting and analyzing data, Ho said, "we can predict the time of use for this machine. We can accuracy predict when this machine could shut down. That means you can repair or replace itin advance."

Technology is one barrier, but Ho sees the new technology as a way also to draw younger people into manufacturing-if they can see the possibilities. "Younger people don’t like to do tedious jobs; they like to do more intelligent jobs, more creative jobs," Ho said. "The new machines adopt computers automation and robots, and they require a highly skilled labor force. We can attract those young engineers to spend their careers in manufacturing."

"We need to improve the working environment of the factory," Ho added. "We have to invest in the working environment-not just teaching the skills, but also the correct working attitude. We need to learn how to work as a team."

Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media,