Thailand is considered to be one of the production bases of hard disk drive of the world. Many leading manufacturing companies enter to set up the production base. With the continuous expansion of production capacity every year each company brings the automation system to improve the production process very much. With the necessity of manufacturers requiring the import of automation system from foreign countries, Thailand loses tremendous value from this part. It triggers the question whether Thailand has a capability in the production of automation system for substituting the import from foreign countries or not.
What is the Automation System?
“Automation System” is the system designed with the electrical, electronics and computer mechanism to work by itself. Human beings may concern only the determination of condition or objective in the working. The automation system can work from the beginning to the end of process with the precision. This helps reduce the human error very well. Moreover, it also helps increase the efficiency in production in various aspects such as the increase of speed and production quantity as well as the durability in hard working.
Automation system is the bringing of engineering knowledge in many aspects to work together by having structure and a variety of working systems. The automation equipment can be categorized into 6 groups: 1. Control System such as Logic controls, Fuzzy Logic Controls and Feedback Controls, 2. Programming such as Protocol, Algorithm and GUI, 3. Electronic Circuit such as Motor Drive, Motion Controller and Signal Conditioner, 4. Sensor such as Camera, Optical sensors and Temperature sensors, 5. Mechanical Structure such as Jix & Fixture, Join, Bolt and Nut and Linear Guide 6. Actuators such as Motors, Electronic Actuators and Hydraulic Cylinders.
The automation system is designed to respond the different demands in each industry. It can mainly divide into 2 categories in accordance with the working efficiency: 1. Semi-Automation is the automation system which still relies on humans in a certain level. Its size is not so large and the system may work with other automation systems for working completely. 2. Fully-Automation is the automation system which can work fully without humans. It must use a variety of technologies and equipment having quite a large size.
For the automation system which hard disk drive manufacturers in Thailand use at present, more than 80% of them are imported from foreign countries such as Singapore and Malaysia which values more then 300 million baht per year. Moreover, the demand is still increasing every year. The category of automation system which is required by the hard disk industry has 4 categories such as: 1. Assembly such as the picking and putting parts, movement, forming, assembly, welding, screwing, 2. Inspection, 3. Qualification Test and 4. Cleaning. The automation system of inspection is considered to be the most demanded.
Although there are a lot of opportunities in marketing, Thai entrepreneurs can not have much chance in marketing because they have a variety of problems such as the lacking of knowledge and expertise in the production, the lacking of management in the production process for corresponding with the customer demand, the lacking of capital in R&D of products. The most important problem is that they have to pay the import tax of equipment from foreign countries at the high rate resulting in higher cost of production than foreign countries for many times.
The Government is Ready to Push Thailand to Compete with Foreign Countries
According to the mentioned problems, National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) has a project to help Thai SMEs to have more potential in the production of automation system in this year. Chayakrit Charoensiriwath, Ph.D., Researcher as a coordinator of this project said NECTEC is a medium in coordinating with manufacturers of hard disk drive for opening the opportunity to Thai SMEs in proposing the trial production of the automation system. This project gains the cooperation very well from leading manufacturers of hard disk drive. More than 20 questions are given to them. The5re are more than 40 manufacturers receiving work to implement further. Thai project has the duration of 3 years under the supporting budget of 250 million baht.
“NECTEC will assist SMEs in the technological development for designing, producing and supporting the capital for 70% of development. At the beginning, it will be a production of trial prototype for testing whether it can produce or not. Then, a lot of production will be produced later. It is expected that within 3 – 5 years, Thailand will step towards a manufacturer who can design and produce the overall automation system; not only a producer who produces according to the drawing of customers like before. Moreover, the market share will be increased as well.”