Innovative research is currently undertaken to fill gaps in IR4.0 implementation in Malaysian industries. This project centres itself on upscaling existing current Supply Chain Management (SCM) by adding IoT and other automated technology to strengthen digital connectivity within and between industries, education and training. Current system primarily operating on IR 2.5 or 3.0 practices reduces effectiveness in fault detection, simultaneously heightens need for manual supply chain monitoring. Hence, overall production quantity and quality is affected.
Acting as head of Centre of Research Industry 4.0 (CRI4.0) in Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaya, Associate Professor Ir. Dr. Harikrishnan Ramiah spearheads development of an intelligent SCM system. SCM in manufacturing industries is a process involving management of flow of goods, besides managing inventory and finished product storage. It essentially covers end-to-end scope of product development to reaching its end customers. On the other hand, IoT are physical objects embedded with sensors, having processing ability, installed with software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communication networks. By intercepting these two elements, Professor Harikrishnan seeks to automate production operations and inventory management to overcome the highlighted challenge.
A fully functional physical setup has been set up in CRI4.0, reflecting actual production and smart storage setup, as shown in Figure 1. The system contains a robotic arm equipped with dedicated controller and a vision camera. It can be programmed according to application of production setup (refer Figure 2).
Figure 1: Physically deployed system at CRI4.0
Figure 2 Robotic Arm program
As the manufactured products arrive, they are placed on a conveyor belt for quality inspection. Here, a pre-programmed vision camera detects quality (‘passed’ or ‘faulty’) of the products. Results are then conveyed to a robotic arm, through a programmable controller, to place the products in the right tray. This process works via a Programmable Logical Controller (PLC) in configuring IO sensors and gathering data, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Vision Camera and PLC IDE
Each product item is labelled with a passive RFID tag containing its identification and other specific details. An RFID reader installed in the pathway of the item’s inspection process detects the data and transmits it to a dashboard application installed on a computer. However, a potential challenge is to transport QC approved products to the smart storage facility. Therefore, research in developing Automotive Guided Vehicle (AGV) is undertaken to address this issue. The AGV would automate transportation of approved products to its respective storage location at smart storage. Smart storage is composed of computerized bins preconfigured to determine product quantity and type. The information is updated periodically to the dashboard application attached to the smart storage system. With BOSSARD Sdn. Bhd. as sponsor for smart storage, OMRON and various SMEs in collaboration, this project seeks to alleviate smart storage system to IR4.0 standards.
The overall intelligent SCM project of Professor Harikrishnan is depicted as Figure 4 below:
Figure 4: Intelligent SCM system architecture and flow
The Smart Production Lab integration project funded by Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) also looks into amalgamating cybersecurity element, as a step moving forward to uphold data protection and secured industrial operationalization. Therefore, collaborations with Multi-National Companies (MNCs) who have or in process of acquiring IR4.0 are highly essential to move the research further in improvising local economics, especially in midst of pandemic.
The project seeks to address three main issues in current supply chain management:
Communication speed: timely communication between managers and warehouse operatives on production functioning, allowing quick decision-making and continuous production
Connectivity: Detection of products’ quality and real-time data transmission via IoT to enable identification and rectification of issues arising in supply chain management, ensuring continuous flow throughout production, storage and logistics processes.
System integration and intelligence: Cloud-based big data system utilization to integrate and analyze data, plus automate supply chain management system, where further actions are undertaken without direct involvement of operational personnel
Generally on IR4.0:
- Leaning against United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), IR4.0 centres amongst nine pillars, i.e. Robots, IoT, Simulation, Cybersecurity, System Integration, Cloud Computing, 3D, Big Data, and Augmented Reality.
- IR 4.0 places greater emphasis on interconnectivity of existing digital technologies by leveraging on Internet of Things (IoT), real time data, and cyber-physical system to contribute to a holistic manufacturing process and supply chain management (SCM), leading to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
- Malaysian industries, especially Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) severely lacks in grasping key concepts of IR4.0 and implementing IoT technologies in their existing manufacturing and SCM, which is reflected by the nation’s ranking 36th among 132 economies in 2021 Global Innovation Index (GII).
 Industry4wrd: National Policy on Industry 4.0 2018, Ministry of International Trade and Industry: https://www.miti.gov.my/miti/resources/National%20Policy%20on%20Industry%204.0/Industry4WRD_Final.pdf  2022, Nine Pillars of IR4.0, Industrial Revolution Centre, Al-Madinah University: https://4irc.mediu.edu.my/industry-4-0/impact-4-0-industrial-revolution-in-education/  2022, What is Industry 4.0- the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?, Epicor: https://www.epicor.com/en-my/resources/articles/what-is-industry-4-0/  2021, Malaysian Companies called to Step-Up their Readiness for IR4.0, Wawasan Open University: https://www.wou.edu.my/malaysian-companies-called-to-step-up-their-readiness-for-ir-4-0/  2021, Global Innovation Index: Malaysia, World Intellectual Property Organization: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_gii_2021/my.pdf
Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Harikrishnan Ramiah, Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Harikrishnan Ramiah is currently an Associate Professor at Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Malaya, working in the area of RFIC design. Harikrishnan is the Director of the Centre of Industry Reserch 4.0 (CRI 4.0) and the Head of Analog, Digital & RF Research group at University of Malaya. His work revolves in providing expert solution to industry in the strength of IR 4.0. Through CRI 4.0, he regulates expert collaborative effort of the faculties in University of Malaya outsourcing solution to SME and MNC
Author: Sharumathi M Kavi Rajan (firstname.lastname@example.org)