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How to digitalise your manufacturing business with big data

last updated 04 July 2017

Local firm Arcstone has developed a unique solution to help manufacturers monitor their processes more effectively.

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Arcstone uses data analytics to track manufacturing processes to improve efficiency and productivity. (Image credit: Arcstone) 

By Joy Fang

Manufacturers often face a conundrum as they expand their factory space to accommodate more orders. Their production lines become increasingly more complex, making it hard to keep track of every process or to quickly spot errors and salvage them.

Singapore-based data analytics and operations startup Arcstone saw this gap, and decided to address it.

“Arcstone's inception came at noticing a significant amount of manufacturers, across traditional and advanced industries, severely lacked true visibility and control over production floor operations,” said Brian Kim, the company’s Chief Growth Officer.

Brian noted that this problem is even more pertinent due to changes in the manufacturing world, which is seeing increasing labour wages, growing demand for customised products, and high-mix low-volume production becoming more prevalent.

Arcstone’s “Operations Platform” product helps manufacturers monitor, maintain, and manage their equipment, no matter how old the machinery may be. Sensors help extract data, and every process, from raw materials to the finished product, is tracked. It enables fast reaction when situations change, such as when there is a delay along the line, or when a machine breaks down.

Furthermore, its platform also optimises one’s workforce with real-time scheduling, workflow tracking and automated task and time management, so employees can be notified to tend to an urgent task quickly.

“Another unique capability Arcstone has is the ability to integrate across any brand or system,” said Brian. He explained that other providers in the industry often have difficulty connecting to machinery that are stand-alone systems and use different communication protocols. “We are hardware-agnostic and utilise industrial IoT as the great equaliser in pulling in data from machines that don't allow or block connectivity.”

According to Brian, deploying Arcstone’s software could increase manufacturers’ capacity by 10 to 15 per cent and reduce overall undetected downtime from an average of two to three hours to just 5 to 10 minutes.

Still, it was not easy getting the company off the ground. According to Brian, hiring the right talent and refining their product to address the complexities and nuances of manufacturing were two key aspects that kept them busy.

It was also challenging getting manufacturers on board in the beginning, as they were “extremely discerning towards new technology”. “We often faced the mindset of ‘if it isn’t broken, then why fix it?’,” he added.

However, because manufacturers are facing increased pressure from their buyers who are demanding products at a cheaper price, better quality, and quicker delivery, they started to come around on the benefits of Arcstone’s products.

“We spent years working with customers, taking in feedback, walking each and every facility, working with management and production floor workers to design and build solutions that are rapid in deployment, quick in results and returns, and most importantly, flexible and adjustable as the manufacturing landscape changes,” he noted. “This required an incredible amount of dedication and hard work from our manufacturing engineers and software architects to design, build, try and iterate.” 

Arcstone is now on the right track. It has 20 staff and has grown 350 per cent over last year, with clients ranging from Fortune 100 MNCs to SMEs located in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Setting up base in Singapore helped, as Brian said the country “provides an unparalleled advantage with its ease of accessibility to other countries throughout Asia, infrastructure, investment capital, and government support for advanced manufacturing initiatives”. The company also exhibited at the recent Smart Nation Innovations’ anchor event, innovfest unbound.

The next steps

Moving ahead, Arcstone is setting sights on regional locations such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. “The long-term plan is to eventually go global,” said Brian.

The company is working on further improving their product so that SMEs can come on board more quickly, and are developing new tools, techniques and best practices to help manufacturers build a real-time data drive ecosystem within their own enterprises. The aim is to help manufacturers transform their production processes to be ready for Industry 4.0.

“Over the next 10 years, we will continue to see the proliferation of Industry 4.0 concepts in a variety of hardware and software solutions as the new norm,” he shared.

“There is a united front across various government sectors to encourage and support its manufacturers to take measured risks on adopting new technologies to change traditional patterns of production behaviour,” Brian added.

He said that Singapore is among a growing trend of countries realising that traditional methods of relying on low-cost wages to provide attractive prices to buyers is not a sustainable strategy.

Brian said, “Singapore already works from a disadvantage when it comes to low-cost labour, available natural resources and available land to build sprawling facilities.”

“This provides further indication and urgency for new and innovative manufacturing technology revolving around hardware, software, algorithms and techniques to be developed, patented and stationed in Singapore to ensure competitiveness,” he said. 

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