The Department of Science and Technology Region I (DOST-I) joined the Workshop of Industry 4.0 Application for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) held on December 7-9, 2021, via the Zoom platform. 

The workshop was led by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Ministry of Industries, Bangladesh in cooperation with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP). Adelisa Florendo, Science Research Specialist II of DOST-I, attend the workshop together with a total of 50 participants representing all member countries with an objective to know the preparations, implementation strategies, methodologies, and tools to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in initiating digital transformation. Likewise, the event provided references for effective adoption of Industry 4.0.

There were six (6) topics discussed all throughout the three-day event. The topics were as follows: 1) Moving toward Industry with a focus on SMEs 4.0: Opportunities and Challenges, 2) Productivity improvement and preparation for digital upgrading, 3) Understanding the readiness of businesses and prioritizing resources for digital transformation: assessment tool and case studies, 4) Suitable technologies and necessary skills for SME digitalization, 5) Fourth Industrial Revolution for SMEs, and 6) Case studies and good practices.

Dr. Ananth Seshan, chairperson of 5G Technologies Ltd, Canada, emphasized that there is no Industry 4.0 revolution without the participation of SMEs. These SMEs can use digital technology to build the capability and capacity to compete in global markets, and an unskilled labor pool will be used as well. To facilitate the transition for the SME industry, a consortium composed of government, academia, industry associations, and private industry can be organized. 

The second session, discussed by Dr. William Lee, focused on the needs of SMEs for digital upgrading and topics on Lean Culture and Value Stream Mapping were also discussed. 

The iBench Assessment Model was presented as a tool for future competitiveness of firms in the third session by Hung-Mo Lin, Director of Digital Transformation and Information Technology (IT) Division. iBench is an open system platform that can assist businesses in identifying and resolving internal difficulties. 

Dr. William Lee talked in the fourth session that tackled sustainable technology and the skills needed for digitalization. Dr. Lee presented the four disruptions/levers driving digitization that include the following: digital data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access. 

In the fifth session, Asad Uz Zaman discussed the three challenges of Industry 4.0 which are robotics and automation diminishing semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, adoption of new technologies, and demand for new skills. He also presented a2i’s Study on Future Skills in Five Major Sectors (Furniture, Agro-food, Leather & Footwear, Readymade Garment, and Textile, and Tourism & Hospitality). 

The final session was discussed by Faruq Ahmed Jewel, Head of Technology, iLab, A2I. This session focused on case studies and good practices of SME Digital Upgrading. 

After the sessions, the attendees had a better understanding of the relationship between digitalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a result of the training. The participants are then expected to relay and discuss their newly acquired information to help SMEs begin their digital transformation. (By: Adelisa C. Florendo, DOST-I)

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