Robotics plays a growing role in manufacturing industries such as automotive, agriculture, and electronics. The global supply chain needs to be prepared for the changes that are shaping the digital, on-demand, and always-on supply chain. Thailand is currently offering great opportunities for foreign investment and incentives that make it worth taking a closer look.
Thailand is more than a favorite tourist destination. It is one of the world's leaders in the robotics industry. By 2018, Thailand is expected to double its employment figures in the industrial robotics industry from 7,500 employees reported in 2015 to over 15,000, according to The International Federation of Robotics (IFR)
The IFR estimates an annual increase of over 133% of multi-purpose robots shipments to Thailand for use in the country’s fast growing electronics and automotive industries. The organization also reports that 2.32 million robots will be used around the world this year. In Thailand alone, 41,600 robots will be used in 2017.
Further, foreign companies providing technology and supply chain products are increasing investments in Thailand, according to Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI). Thai imports of industrial robotics and automation systems escalated to over $47.3 million in 2016, the BOI reported.
Automation, robotics, & cobotics
Concerns about full automation has led to the development of cobotics , a concept that refers to robots complementing rather than replacing humans.
The automotive and aerospace industries have been early adopters of cobotics. However, as new technologies allow for greater operational integration between robots and humans, cobotics will be quickly spread to other industries.
KUKA Robotics, a member of the International Federation of Robotics, launched its KR C4 controller generation in 2010; it was the first to combine the complete safety controller in a single control system. Last year, ABB opened a Robot Applications Center in Thailand and introduced YuMi, the world’s first truly collaborative dual-arm robot.
Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) is the investment promotion agency for Thailand. It facilitates foreign direct investment. The BOI offers customized services free of charge to help businesses succeed in Thailand.
(Caption) Hirunya Suchinai, Secretary General of Thailand Board of Investment (BOI), joining the Grand Opening Ceremony of the Robot Technical Center of Nachi Technology (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
More than 60 companies with established business operations in Thailand including Eureka Automation, CT Asia Robotic, Yutaka Robot Systems, Ryoei, and Robosis are currently producing industrial robots and automation machinery that meet international standards, are high-quality, and priced competitively.
In an interview with EBN, Ajarin Pattanapanchai, deputy secretary general of the Thailand Board of Investment explains that other companies with robotics business operations in Thailand include:
- Globax Robot System (Thailand) – A Japanese company that produces robotic production lines
- UKA Robotics: A German world leader in robotics systems
- Fillomatic Global Industries: An Indonesian company that produces robotic bottle filling machines and robotic capping machines
- Cal-comp Electronics: A Taiwanese company that produces robotic computers
The industrial robotics industry is blooming in Thailand thanks to supercluster and incentive policy, Pattanapanchai said. The Thai government offers companies the maximum incentive up to eight years of corporate income tax exemption plus a 50% corporate income tax reduction and import duty on machinery and raw materials. “Companies can enjoy up to ten years of what we call tax holiday when they collaborate with local companies,” she told EBN.
Pattanapanchai has been part of the BOI and involved in high-profile project developments as well as in investment promotion policy to promote hi-tech industries in Thailand since 1984; therefore, understands well the process that has led robotics in the manufacturing sector to increase so exponentially in Thailand.
“The robotics manufacturing in Thailand was very small in the past,” she said. “That’s the reason why the government of Thailand promotes automation and robotics systems to be our target sector to serve the demands of the manufacturing industry in the country.”
Thailand is taking a long view in terms of investment in technology and support of emerging technologies. “Last year, the policy took robotics as the focus area and we had 12 projects with a total investment of around 37 million dollars. And not only robotics, we also promote and see big opportunities for control systems, systems integrations, embedded systems, and systems design,” said Pattanapanchai. “The industry needs good infrastructure and good networking so the government of Thailand is looking into that as well.”
And it’s not only Thailand, south Asia benefits from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade agreement, a common free market made up of 10 member states. All of the companies are open to investment and hold a high potential for supply chain organizations looking to getting closer to automation and robotics manufacturing.