Smaller, below the radar Vietnam firms go hi-tech as needed

By Vien Thong   July 11, 2018 | 08:14 pm PT
Small companies see Industry 4.0 not as an image booster, but as a tool to meet customers’ specific requirements.
A man working on a robot at the Center for Training and Technology Transfer Vietnam - Japan in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Vien Thong

A man working on a robot at the Center for Training and Technology Transfer Vietnam - Japan in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Vien Thong

Nguyen Luu Dung is a familiar face in Vietnam’s mechanics world.

He is the director of Vinamachines, a machinery and tools distributor. But he prefers being called a technical advisor. “In my company, everyone is just a machinery salesperson.”

Dung must be in the thick of things as Vietnamese leaders and experts repeatedly talk about the challenges and opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, presents to Vietnam, but he keeps a low profile.

“I have just delivered two machines costing VND20 billion ($878,000) and VND50 billion ($2.2 million) to an elevator maker to use in their stainless steel sheets manufacturing. With these machines, their manufacturing time has been cut down from eight hours to one hour.”

The machines have also helped his customer boost productivity from 300 to 600-800 elevators per month, he said.

Cutting edge technology in the machine and tools industry is already available and local firms like Dung’s customer are adopting them as they strive to remain innovative and keep pace with new technological developments.

But unlike big companies with solid financial resources and strong innovation capacity who advertise their huge investments in new technology and automation, smaller companies are rather quiet about this aspect of their growth.

For a real estate developer or a bank allocating dozens of billion dong is not a problem, but for mechanic manufacturers, it is a big decision that requires careful consideration, an economist told VnExpress.

Apart from capital, manpower is also a major obstacle for firms in integrating advanced technology into their production line. Skilled workers able to operate advanced automated machines are relatively scarce in Vietnam, he said.

At a recent workshop on digital transition, Vu Kim Hanh, president of the Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods, also mentioned manpower as one of the three main concerns of Vietnamese enterprises when thinking about digitalizing their operations, the other two being capital and data security.

“They worry about not being able to find capable employees. They also worry about not being able to prevent employees going away with their data. Even if firms can find qualified employees, they will soon lose them to other companies,” she said.

But Tran Viet Huan, APAC Digital Advisor of Microsoft Vietnam, said firms should not be worried too much about cost and manpower when applying digitalization, as technological solutions are now available on cloud platforms that are cost-saving and easy to use. He said they can rely on these services in the beginning when implementing new technology without spending big bucks on hiring experts.

Last month, the Saigon Hi-Tech Park (SHTP) in HCM City set up the Viet Nam-Japan Training and Technology Transfer Center with the aim of solving the human resources problem for firms in adopting Industry 4.0 technology.

SHTP manager Le Hoai Quoc said the center was established to meet the demand of manufacturers for high quality workers who are equipped with Industry 4.0 knowledge and skills.

It is also expected to become a leading training center in the fields of robotics and automation in Southeast Asia over the next decade, he added.

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