Latest ASEAN news

The EU comes to South-East Asia

In April 2021, the European Council signed the new EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which reinforces the EU strategic focus on the fast-growing region, which includes ASEAN.

The European Union wishes to build on a rules-based international order, based on agreed standards, with an open and fair environment for trade and investment – in both directions, improvement of competitiveness and resilience and with a strong “green” focus.

While much of the strategy includes policies on security and defence, cyber activities, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region, a significant element includes progress towards multilateralism and interregional cooperation.

Along with trade, sustainability is also going to be a major element in the new European approach and the strategy also refers to green investments and potential mobilisation of the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus that could be leveraged in ASEAN, transforming the economy as part of a post-pandemic reconstruction, and enabling the region to achieve the Agenda 2030 targets.

The EU is pushing a new growth strategy transforming Europe into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, with a target of zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. This involves huge investments into environmentally friendly technologies, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport, decarbonisation of energy and importantly for ASEAN countries, working to improve global environmental standards.

Source: The Star

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Top 10 applications of Artificial Intelligence in manufacturing

What is the goal of every asset-based manufacturing company? Finding ways to decrease production cost and increase production efficiency, leading to bigger profit. However, that means that not just manpower, but also machinery, equipment, supply chain and the warehouse need to function flawlessly and at their optimum. In reality, one of the main challenges that manufacturers face is unplanned downtime caused by failure of machinery. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help overcome these and many other obstacles relating to the manufacturing business, improve operational efficiency, launch new products, customise product design and plan future financial actions.

Here are top 10 applications of AI in manufacturing:

  1. Predictive maintenance. In the US, 42% of unplanned downtime results from machinery failure, and regular maintenance of machinery is one of the biggest cost centres manufacturers have. With the advancements in AI, it is now possible to build predictive models that can foresee and predict future machinery performance and possible malfunction. This enables manufacturers to take necessary measures before problems occur, saving time and resources.
  2. Defect detection. Most manufacturing assembly lines do not have automated systems or technologies put into place to identify defects in finished products. Workers need to manually check each product. By incorporating AI, with its self-learning capability, into the process, manufacturers can now have a smarter defect detection system that frees the human from the repetitive work of manual verification.
  3. Human-robot collaboration. While more jobs are being taken over by robots, workers are being trained for more advanced positions like in product design and equipment maintenance. In most manufacturing settings, collaborative robots working alongside human workers are now being deployed as an extra set of hands.
  4. Generative design. Generative design is where a program is built using advanced technologies, to generate a number of outputs that meet specified criteria. It enables an engineer to input their design goals and parameters and cost constraints into generative design software. This software then explores possible configurations and provides the best design options. This enables a manufacturing company to explore design ideas much quicker than with a real person designing a product.
  5. Quality assurance. AI in manufacturing that has turned previously manual and tedious tasks into automated processes. By using AI and image processing, engineers can now develop algorithms that can automatically evaluate and establish whether an item has been perfectly produced.
  6. Digital twins. A digital twin means a virtual representation of a product, process or system that a business can use to make model-driven decisions, rapid product development and operational performance improvement.
  7. Demand prediction. By developing machine learning models that run predictive analysis algorithms a manufacturer can estimate market demands by looking for patterns in location, socioeconomic and macroeconomic factors, among other customer behaviours.
  8. Supply chain management. Handling the supply chain management manually, poses a significant time and energy drain on the workers and company resources. AI and behavioural analytics have made supply chain management systems much smarter and more efficient. For example, with the right team of skilled software engineers, a manufacturer can develop AI tools and apps for optimising warehouse management and logistic operations, like production, delivery, and fleet operations.
  9. Inventory management. Since machine learning is better at handling demand forecasting and supply planning, it can be used to successfully design solutions that promote inventory planning activities. A demand forecasting tool that is powered with AI will give a manufacturer more accurate forecasts than traditional demand forecasting methods that are always prone to human bias and errors.
  10. Costumer service. By employing AI in manufacturing, companies can develop solutions for analysing customer behaviour, identifying patterns as well as predicting future outcomes. Also, implementing AI solutions in customer service has added benefits like quick response times and personalised experiences which lead to improved relations.

Source: Global Trade

Is a four-day workweek better for employers or employees?

Many companies around the world are experimenting with the four-day workweek; some are asking their employees to work the normal working hours four days a week, while others pack a 40 hours workweek into four days. Whatever the strategy, the idea is catching on, but what are the benefits, and challenges?

On the positive side, employees are generally more engaged and productive, have lower stress levels, and have a better work-life balance with more time to run necessary personal errands. Employers have noted an up to 40% increase in productivity, as well as considerable cost savings related to the extra day off: lower costs of absenteeism, such as sick days and any pay relating to that, as well as lower costs of utilities, relating to opening the office five days a week. Less stressed employees also reduce the risk and cost of employee turnover. Eventually, this can also lead to increased profits for the company.

At the same time, some employees can be more stressed having to complete their work in a shorter time frame, while others work longer hours during the four days, and highly customer-facing jobs or companies, can be difficult to balance with the day off. Not all industries, such as finance, construction, are well positioned to implement a four-day work week, as their revenue is tied to external factors.

How to tackle this? One option is to for employees to rotate the day-off, avoiding a full-scale shut-down for the extra day, or to start implementing the four-day workweek every other week. Overall, there are clear benefits of the shortened workweek, and happy employees make a happy employer, so everyone win.

Source: e27

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Is digital procurement needed for businesses to stay competitive?

Digital procurement, not to be confused with purchasing or sourcing, is yet another avenue in which logistics businesses are moving forward. When a business makes the transition to complete digital procurement, they make available a wide variety of advantages.

Digital procurement increases efficiency by automating and streamlining repetitive processes, and lowering costs, with AI helping avoid costly errors. In addition to that, it produces a wealth of useful data, making day-to-day operations and decision-making more informed, and generally serves as a platform for collaboration between buyers, suppliers, and third parties, leading to optimal purchasing decisions.

 Digital procurement leverages pricing, matching, and ranking algorithms across vast amounts of capacity data to efficiently distribute load opportunities to carriers. In a time of constant market fluctuation, heavily stretched supply chains and forecasting models with limited visibility, digital procurement includes visibility features that give procurement officers and business owners actionable insights into their processes.

A tech-forward approach helps solve these problems with detailed information more readily accessible and easy to understand, thereby allowing business owners to launch most profitable action plans for the business. In addition, a completely digital system can be more easily updated and changes across platforms more rapidly implemented.

Recognising the value of a digital transition as early as possible will keep businesses in line with the curve, and in a post-COVID world, digital procurement in business is not a question of if, but when.

Source: Global Trade

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Clean Technology Market in Southeast Asia

There is a growing concern in the world about the effects of climate change, which are also strongly felt in Southeast Asia. There is an increasing need to reduce reliance on carbon-heavy energy production and industrial practices, and to shift to more sustainable development methods, in order to secure sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and generally increase societal well-being. This gap can be overcome through the use of clean or renewable energy technologies, or cleantech, such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, biothermal and ocean energy. Cleantech innovation has emerged in the region across various industries, such as energy efficiency, distribution and storage; transportation; information and telecommunication technology; agriculture, water and waste; and chemicals and advanced materials.

Innovation of clean technologies in Southeast Asia has been rapidly developing over the last decade, due to numerous investments in the industry. Mainly driven by rising incomes, industrialisation, and urbanisation, energy demand in Southeast Asian countries is expected to grow by 60% by 2040, and further innovations are needed to meet the growth in demand for energy.

Although cleantech is still a developing industry in the region, it has grown into one of the top largest venture capital investment sectors. As many Asian cities struggle to deal with the effects of climate change, cleantech is steadily providing the solutions that are needed. Several cleantech innovations from Southeast Asia have expanded around the world: from the Cambodian start-up developing agricultural biodigesters to convert organic waste into clean energy and fertiliser, and Filipino companies launching non-incineration technologies for treating solid and infectious medical waste with reduced water contamination, and utilising solar power for post-harvest crop cooling, to Singaporean innovators using sun oriented grid-controls and other IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to support the growth of smart green cities.

Southeast Asia has the highest renewable energy penetration in Asia, on average 45.7%, with Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia leading the way, mainly driven by hydropower and bioenergy. The ten Member States of ASEAN have also set out an ambitious renewable energy target, aiming to achieve a 23% renewable energy share in the energy mix by 2025. As ASEAN is planning to accelerate the energy collaboration between its members and it is reported that decarbonisation, decentralisation, and digitalisation are the main drivers in Southeast Asian energy transitions, there are considerable business opportunities to be taken advantage of.

Source: Medium

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Emerging trends in the foodtech industry in Southeast Asia

Digitalisation and technology innovation have fuelled the growth of many industries, among them food technologies, which not only has emerged as a response to the COVID-19, but also are helping the food and beverages industry to keep up with changing consumer demands and consumption trends.

Sub-industries such as online grocery and food delivery services, health conscious, plant based and bioengineered foods, and more nutritious and bespoke pet food, are all influencing the emergence of various foodtech solutions and companies. As consumers are increasingly health conscious, they are choosing sustainable, locally sourced and produced products, which have clear health benefits, and are also environmentally friendly to produce and recycle. Therefore, there are various opportunities for ASEAN food-, bio- and agritech companies to launch new products, attract additional customers and gain market share in a fast-growing and lucrative industry.


Source: Tech Collective

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Support to the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI)

Following the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015, the ASEAN Member States are now pursuing further efforts to integrate their economies. This includes the promotion of a single market and single production base. The Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) was launched in 2000 to assist the less developed countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam in making the most of the potential benefits of regional integration, while also helping them cope with the associated challenges and economic risks. Details of how the IAI aims to fulfil these objectives are included in the document ‘ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together’. Numerous measures remain to be implemented, particularly with regard to the ASEAN agreements on trade facilitation and investment in the services sector, and on promoting the mobility of skilled labour.

Thailand shifts focus to high value-added economy

Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) has approved a framework for the country's 13th national economic and social development plan from 2022-2026, with focus on high value-added economic development, including the value-added manufacturing. This indicates a restructuring of the manufacturing industry, with the aim to increase incomes and profits.

This means opportunities for businesses in high-tech sectors, such as bio, circular and green economies, as well as the medical industries, logistics and digital services.

Source: VietnamPlus

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Picture: "Solar Panels Cleantech" by RecondOil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Indonesia and Singapore are teaming up to build Southeast Asia’s digital hub of the future

Nongsa Digital Park, a collaboration between Indonesia and Singapore in Batam, Indonesia, is set to be a digital hub for technology start-ups from both countries, helping them form closer ties, increase technological cooperation, and share talent, resources and market share. The park will comprise co-living and co-working spaces, a tech campus, and a plaza, big enough to accommodate 8,000 tech specialists.

Both countries are already home to two of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant technology ecosystems, with several ASEAN tech unicorns headquartered in either country, and companies from both countries are often collaborating, as well as competing with each other, especially when starting international expansions. Additionally, while Singapore is technologically more advanced, Indonesia boasts a massive population, keen to take up new technologies. This brings both countries new opportunities for business, collaboration and cross-border expansion.

Source: e27

Photo source: Nongsa Digital Park

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Read more about Nongsa Digital Park here

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Can ASEAN recover this year?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, South-East Asia as on track to becoming the world’s 4th largest economy by 2030. However, the pandemic caused economic devastation in the region and has become one of the biggest challenges to face ASEAN.

However, there are positive signs, that the bloc can successfully overcome this and make an economic recovery in 2021. The region is determined to enhance and strengthen economic and trade cooperation, for example, through the ASEAN Single Window Live Operation and the ASEAN Customs Transit System. In addition, ASEAN nations have increased the uptake of digital payments, and e-commerce is on the rise, as a result of the movement restrictions due to the pandemic.

Alongside intra-ASEAN cooperation, strengthening relations with external partners is also high on the agenda. The bloc is seeking even closer collaboration with China, in addition to the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will support ASEAN cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations.

ASEAN has faced challenges before, and undoubtedly, Southeast Asia will overcome this ordeal and make a speedy economic recovery, after the pandemic is under control.

Source: Business Times

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UK makes ASEAN 'high priority' for post-Brexit trade deals

The UK, having left the European Union at the end of 2020, has highlighted a trade deal with ASEAN as ‘extremely high priority’. Currently, the EU has free trade agreements in place with Singapore and Vietnam, the execution of which was made easier by the two countries having an existing trade agreement with the EU.

In 2019, trade between the UK and ASEAN reached US$ 35 billion or 12.7% of the total trade between ASEAN and the EU, making UK ASEAN’s fourth biggest trading partner in Europe.

The UK views the question of palm oil, which has been a challenging issue for the EU and ASEAN to overcome in trade negotiations, as a point to work together on and find common ground. There is existing strong demand in the UK for palm oil and palm oil products, and the UK is taking the position that working with national governments, and supporting communities living and working in highly forested areas, is the way towards sustainability.

Britain is already conducting joint trade reviews with Thailand and Indonesia for potential deals, and is engaged with Malaysia through a joint committee on issues such as trade policy and market access. In June 2020, the UK applied to become an ASEAN dialogue partner, which is another way for nations to strengthen ties with ASEAN, through high level talks on regional and global issues. Successful or not, the UK is certain there is a lot for the UK and ASEAN to work on.

Source: Nikkei Asia

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How fintech is disrupting the Southeast Asian payments market

Fintech has revolutionalised the payments industry and apart from the grand global success, its presence in the Southeast Asian markets has attracted many companies from all over the globe to invest and branch out in the region, in addition to already plentiful local players.

E-commerce has made a strong impact on the rise of digital payments, and alongside that, digital lending has emerged as a highest-grossing business model in ASEAN. Innovation in fintech can be found in many of the services available on the market, such as online multi-currency exchange in online multi-currency invoice platforms, software to handle insurance claims, funds distribution and funding management, and finance and investment management for SMEs. Combined with AI, fintech is enabling technology adopters to personalise and customise user experience, as well conduct predictive data analysis.

As a whole, digital financial services are expected to generate US$ 38 billion in revenue by 2025 in Southeast Asia. In comparison, in 2019, annual revenue of the sector was US$ 11 billion. The driving force behind the rise of fintech are consumer trends, which are in turn shifting as a result of digitalisation. There is also high level of consumer adaptation and trust in these technologies, creating new business opportunities and new markets for many local companies.

Source: e27

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