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In This Digital-First World, Manufacturers Need to Leverage Tech More Than Ever to Address Challenges
February 3, 2022 News


Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Tech Journalist, AOPG

Players in the manufacturing industry are facing lots of challenges—and that is nothing new. But, as always, technology is proving to be a difference-maker in terms of addressing old and new issues in the industry, only this time, innovation, automation and digitalisation have taken on even greater importance.

“The overall challenges that our customers [manufacturing companies] have to face have not changed,” said Bas Kuper, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Asia Pacific, at Siemens Digital Industries Software, in a virtual media brief with selected media members. “There’s still the pressure to reduce their time to market. There’s still a big pressure to reduce their costs. Products are still becoming more and more complex in terms of the number of products and in terms of the software and electronics that are being applied to the new generation of products.”

These challenges, again, are being met through an increasing reliance on technology. And the reason for it is that adoption is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompting businesses globally to either start their digital transformation or accelerate it. According to Siemens, in fact, companies have accelerated the digitisation of their share of digital or digitally enabled products by seven years, underpinning the growing role of technology in the manufacturing industry today—and, by extension, Siemens’ leading role in helping companies worldwide take full advantage of technology.

Kuper cites as an example the case of German biotechnology company BioNTech, whose COVID-19 vaccine was co-developed with biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer is one of about only ten in the world so far. That BioNTech and Pfizer were able to accelerate their vaccine’s time to market is obviously a testament to the tireless and brilliant work of their scientists. But it is also proof of how technology—that of Siemens, notably—can make production easier, safer and faster.

In particular, Siemens’ technologies, according to Kuper, helped reduce the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine’s time to market by five months. Among these technologies are simulation tools, manufacturing execution systems, automation technology and process control solutions. The case of BioNTech, however, is not isolated, as more companies have begun leveraging various technologies to adapt to the challenges brought about by this global health crisis. And among the most popular and useful of these technologies is digital twins technology, which allows production teams to create virtual representations of their machines and even their entire plants to manage processes and failures remotely.

Kuper, who was joined in the media brief by Tim Srock, CEO at low-code platform Mendix, and Vincent Lim, Vice President and Head of Asia Pacific, at Siemens-Mendix, also highlighted the following tech trends that will define the manufacturing industry’s use of tech:

Prioritising Both Product and Process Innovation—Equally

If companies wish to remain competitive globally, they will have to enhance operational efficiency but reduce costs while doing so. This is only possible if they focus on process innovation as much as product innovation. In doing so, they will be able to thrive and ensure business continuity and growth.

“Smart manufacturing is one of the key market trends, powered and driven by consumers. As such, consumer-driven manufacturing is a concept within the Mendix value proposition. Many manufacturers are thankful for the very flexible and rapid application development platform that is Mendix, which enabled them to accelerate their digital transformation journey during the pandemic. What used to take years, you can now achieve ten times of that in a year alone,” said Lim.


This increasingly digital-first world is becoming more and more hyperconnected but manufacturers with manual processes, legacy systems and siloed operations are finding it hard to keep pace. A workaround is to leverage solutions such as Siemens’ Xcelerator or the Mendix Low Code platform, both of which can easily integrate into existing systems and data. By leveraging these solutions, companies can modernise their core systems and improve operational efficiency as a whole.

System Integration and Automation

There is an ongoing “talent war” in the manufacturing industry where finding skilled workers has become quite the challenge. This has only underpinned the need for system automation to reduce manual mundane processes. Even so, attracting talent is no longer enough; nowadays companies must also integrate connectivity, data, digital processes and modern apps into their operations to optimise efficiency and remedy labour challenges.

“Currently, companies are not just facing a technological challenge but an organisational one as well. Customers, once they are convinced about the digital enterprise, must rethink their past investments and application landscape because we have observed that integration is one of their biggest challenges,” Kuper pointed out. “The big drive for digitalisation means a closer collaboration between the customers’ different functional domains is necessary.”

The Rise of Low Code

Low code app development is growing in popularity because it enables companies to build on and modernise their core and legacy systems and to automate various tasks. It can also help companies launch new business models and products quickly, enhance customer experience and adapt to a rapidly evolving market.

“As the digital and physical worlds converge, people are increasingly turning to applications for solutions. Thus, the need for low code platforms becomes more urgent and pressing. Mendix essentially provides everyone—both professional and citizen developers—with building blocks in a low code fashion, enabling people to develop applications and deploy it where needed,” explained Srock.

The technologies available to manufacturers worldwide are not only growing in number but also in sophistication. And by now, companies in the manufacturing sector should have realised that this digital-first world demands digital solutions to everyday challenges, like reducing time to market and slashing down costs.