India Has The Capacity And Capability To Have An Unmanned Workfloor: Kenneth Caleb Koh

Kenneth Caleb Koh, head of regional marketing, rest of Asia at ASM Assembly Systems
Kenneth Caleb Koh, head of regional marketing, rest of Asia at ASM Assembly Systems

Kenneth Caleb Koh (KK), head of regional marketing, rest of Asia at ASM Assembly Systems in an exclusive interaction with EFY Group talks about how ASM has moved from being just a hardware solutions provider to a software and connectivity solutions provider for the integrated smart factory.

ASM Assembly Systems is the supplier of SIPLACE, surface mount technology (SMT) equipment, software, and services to the electronics assembly market. It is also the manufacturer of assembly equipment, pick and place and software manufacturer.

“Currently, there are no SMT factories that have a fully automated factory with zero human operators. However, with India being the IT hub with a big pool of software talents, there are both the capacity and capability to progress further to achieve this,” noted KK

Here are some more interesting excerpts from this conversation around this new move by the company and its expansion plans in India.

EFY: Tell us a little about ASM’s business model and overall product offerings

KK: The ASM group is made up of 3 business segments: namely surface mount technology (SMT) solutions, semiconductor backend manufacturing solutions, and the materials segment, which produces lead frames.

In SMT Solutions, we provide both equipment and software for the integrated smart factory. Our offerings include stencil printers, solder paste measurement systems and placement machines for both high-end and mid-range production. We offer stencil printers for both high and mid-range solutions. The high-end stencil printing solutions include the DEK TQ, DEK NeoHorizon 01iX, DEK NeoHorizon 03iX, and the E by DEK series make up our mid-range stencil printing solution.

As for our solder paste measurement system, or SPM, we have the ASM ProcessExpert. Our placement machines consist of the SIPLACE TX-series and the SIPLACE SX-series for high-end production, the SIPLACE CA-series for the Advanced Packaging Industry and the E by SIPLACE series for mid-range production. On top of these, we have various other software offerings that enable the smart SMT factory.

EFY: How is SPI different from SPM?

KK: Inspection means the system inspects and informs you if the results are acceptable or unacceptable. Here at ASM, we have taken this process a step further. Our ASM ProcessExpert, consisting of the ASM ProcessLens (hardware) and the ProcessEngine (software), helps to inspect, recommend and optimize the printing parameters such as print speed, print pressure or the cleaning cycle to ensure that our customers achieve the highest quality of results.

EFY:  Are your offerings limited to equipment and machines?

KK: As mentioned earlier, we have moved beyond just a hardware solutions provider. Not only do we offer equipment, we also provide software and connectivity solutions for the integrated smart factory.

EFY: Can you please elaborate on this service?

KK: Together with other suppliers in the market, we have spearheaded the IPC-Hermes 9852 protocol which allows communication between machines, to replace the SMEMA standard which has become inadequate for today’s production processes. With the IPC-Hermes standard, we can exchange all relevant types of board-related data such as dimensions and different ID types. We can also keep track of every board being assembled without the need for repeatedly reading bar codes or other ID tags.

In addition, we have also worked with industry partners to come up with and develop the IPC-CFX standard, the worldwide industrial IOT communication standard for assembly manufacturing. Along with our sister company, Critical Manufacturing, we can provide MES solutions for our customers as well. Finally, we are also going into cloud with ADAMOS, a strategic alliance for the future topics of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things.

EFY: Does This imply you are foraying into the IoT business as well?

KK: Yes, we are a joint venture partner of ADAMOS, an Industrial IoT platform that allows different cloud-based applications to run in the cloud. For example, IIOT apps can collect data from different factories sites and publish a report where the customer (headquarters) and their various factory sites can view the progress and monitor the efficiency and productivity of the production lines. We have gone beyond just being an equipment manufacturer and supplier to software and IoT as well.

EFY: Does this system incorporate any level of AI to do its job?

KK: Our ProcessExpert system is knowledge-based. It processes data referencing from the vast pool of experiential database accumulated from process engineering.

 EFY: Do you think Indian industries have matured enough to switch to an unmanned workfloor or dark factory setup completely?

KK: Currently, there are no SMT factories that have a fully automated factory with zero human operators. However, with India being the IT hub with a big pool of software talents, there are both the capacity and capability to progress further to achieve this.

 EFY: Any further investment or expansion plan in India?

KK: We have noticed that India is a growing market and we have invested in our setup here. We have increased the number of our engineers by 200 per cent within a year. We have also increased our direct sales locations. We used to have three in the main cities: Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi. This year we have added another one in Pune. With this market boom coming along, it is just a matter of time that we will scale up our setup here. Moving forward, we will expand even more so that we can support our customers better.

With the development of the ASM Remote Smart Factory, we can also remotely chat, conduct a video conference and even remotely access our customers’ machines to address issues our customers are facing. This way we improve on the response time between us and the customers to support them better.

 EFY: How difficult is it to find skilled labourers in India when it comes to automated lines?

KK: Everyone in India is facing the same challenges in finding the right skills and talent due to the growth. All newly set up plants are having difficulties trying to find skilled engineers to run the factory. Fret not though as our service team is part of a global organisation, the service team here has the support of the regional headquarters in Singapore and the support of our global headquarters in Munich, Germany. For example, while our Indian team can access the customer’s machines physically and remotely, Singapore’s and Munich’s team can also access the customer’s machines remotely to service our customers. So, it is round-the-clock support, as we are available in all time zones.

EFY: How are you training and skilling up your in-house talent?

KK: In India, we have set up our own training centre in Chennai. In this training centre, we train our own engineers and our customers’ engineers. We also have training centres in Singapore and Munich. In addition, we have an online learning platform called ASM Academy where customers and our own engineers can go online to learn about our equipment and solutions.

EFY: Is training the customer’s engineers a separately paid service or a part of the after-sales support?

KK: When customers buy our machines, we also train them on how to operate our machines.When our engineers commission and set up the line, we will train their engineers on how to use our machines and make sure that they are operationally ready. If they need additional training, our service team here will be able to assist them.

EFY: Do you offer exclusive hardware maintenance services?

KK: It depends. While all machines come with a warranty and the necessary spare parts, the maintenance contract can be customised from customer to customer.

 EFY: Lastly, how proactive is the Indian government in developing the country’s manufacturing capacity?

KK: I believe that the Indian government is very keen to make India self-sufficient. This can be seen some of the policies that they have implemented to bring manufacturing into India so that they do not have to depend on imports and at the same time improving the livelihood of the Indian population by creating new jobs. This is the start of a great journey for India to grow the economy with many opportunities for everyone


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