COVID-19 exposed numerous loopholes across various industries in the ASEAN region, including the manufacturing industry. Affected companies are continuously seeking technological solutions that can help them improve their business operations and provide better services for their customers. As such, tech startups in Southeast Asia can take advantage of these recent tech trends to reshape the manufacturing industry and generate revenue. 

Companies’ interest in doing business in Southeast Asia continues to increase over time due to the growing tech startup ecosystem in the region. ASEAN companies are known for their strides in developing novel high-tech digital tools that solve pressing problems. The Bloomberg Innovation Index puts Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand among the top 50 destinations in the world for innovation.

Since 2015, the ASEAN region has attracted a total investment of $13 billion USD, with 75% of the amount channelled into the eCommerce and logistics industries. With a thriving startup ecosystem and new opportunities in the logistics, manufacturing, and trade sectors, Southeast Asia is shaping up to be the global supply chain centre.

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To achieve this feat, tech startups in the region need to solve the challenges of economic diversity, location, and language barriers. They must also come up with innovative solutions to eliminate the setbacks created by the pandemic.

Numerous companies are looking to take advantage of recent innovations to transform their business, increase operational efficiency and serve tech-savvy customers better. By adopting digital transformation models, manufacturing, retail, eCommerce, and logistics companies can drive change in their industries and stay ahead of competitors. 

The need for big data

With the constantly evolving consumer behaviour, manufacturing companies are making efforts to understand their target market. Consequently, there is a growing need for accurate data to analyse consumers’ online and offline behaviour and provide customised services.

Holistics, a data analytics platform that allows businesses to create and manage their databases, states that Southeast Asian companies account for 50% of their customers. For instance, Holistics helped Kata, an Indonesian AI chatbot company gather data without the help of a technical team, thereby boosting the company’s operational efficiency. 

Manufacturing companies in the region can take advantage of this technology to obtain data and use it to create better products for consumers. 

Creating smart factories with IoT

COVID-19 created constraints in the recruitment and management of the workforce. To this effect, manufacturers are adopting IoT solutions to build factories that can run with little to no human oversight. For example, the Singapore Manufacturing Consortium (SIMCO) has brought its finest tech solution providers—including startups—together to encourage local business owners to build smart factories of the future.

SIMCO’s Chairman Willson Deng states that the consortium looks to build a community of manufacturing solution providers to serve local manufacturers. This move could give Singapore the headstart to spearhead the industrial revolution in the region. He also pointed out that Singapore’s manufacturing industry is at a pivotal phase of its advancement. To truly succeed, it must avoid competing against other economies based on pricing and quality. 

SIMCO’s solution can transform Singapore and the entire ASEAN region into a data-driven manufacturing powerhouse. With this solution, manufacturers can easily access innovations from tech startups without worrying about integration. It will also help them create quality products, increase productivity and reduce the cost of production. 

Transforming supply chain with intelligent automation

Intelligent automation combines the powers of artificial intelligence and traditional automation to create systems that synergise scalability and differentiation simultaneously. Although traditionally automated processes such as payment processing, invoicing, warehousing, inventory management, and order tracking have been in existence for a long time; artificial intelligence uses data to analyse past behaviour and predict possible future trends.

Scalability allows businesses to reduce cost, provide faster services and recover from setbacks faster. On the other end, differentiation enables them to stay visible in the market, reduce risks and predict the future. The merging of these two technologies can give room for mass customisation of products. ASEAN manufacturers have applied intelligent automation in various areas, including logistics automation, stakeholder collaboration, and supply chain decision support systems. 

To avoid the recurrence of setbacks caused by COVID-19, companies should dedicate their resources to building location-independent supply chain management systems that can support the parent supply chain team without any need for physical contact. This move will allow the parent team to delegate tasks within the company and beyond by partnering with other companies during emergencies.

ASEAN manufacturing companies have many hurdles to scale owing to the pandemic. However, tech startups in Southeast Asia can ease their journeys towards digital transformation by creating innovative tools and platforms. Manufacturers should tap into the tech trends to reduce the effects of the pandemic and transform their businesses so as to stay ahead in the industry.