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Factory Automation Witnesses Steady Growth

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Today, it is hard to imagine industrial production processes being implemented without automation systems. Industrial or factory automation is a vast field that involves simultaneous working of software, machinery, software, and information systems to achieve increased production, superior quality, lower cost, increased flexibility, and higher accuracy. It has three levels namely supervisor level, control level, and field level which intercommunicate between them. The first level involves the use of systems such as industrial PC (IPC), human machine interface (HMI), and WLAN. Within the control level, there is the use of automation systems such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), HMIs, and field bus (CAN). The field level describes the equipment such as sensors and actuators such as magnetic valves, servomotors, power switches, and more interacting with a micro PLC or remote I/O system.

There has been a steady growth in the factory automation market in recent years. It is expected to reach billions by 2025. A surge in need for high product quality, the expectation of high reliability in high volume production, progression in technology, the maturity of the industrial processing technologies, and growing need for mass production with reduced operation cost are the factors responsible for the rapid development of the industry.

The concept is gaining acceptance from various industries owing to its numerous benefits. Manufacturers from all over the world are implementing automatic systems in manufacturing and other processes in order to stand out from the market competitiveness. For instance, Kontrol Energy, a Canadian company providing smart energy solutions and technologies, and Toyota Tsusho Canada Inc. (TTCI), the trading arm of the Toyota Group recently announced a partnership with the aim of scaling their solutions across a large customer base. Tempo Automation, an electronics manufacturer for prototyping formed an agreement with Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense company to expand software automation. Dassault Systèmes, the European software company partnered with Swiss-Swedish robotics firm ABB to develop software for industrial processes. Some other developments took place recently, including the Japanese motorcycle firm, Yamaha Motors’ recent announcement of showcasing several factory automation technologies at Hannover Messe 2019 which will be held from April 1 to April 5. Another is industrial automation solutions company, Omron Automation Americas’ announcement to exhibit advanced technology for flexible manufacturing, traceability, and more at the Automate Show that will be held in Chicago from April 8 to 11 2019.

Kontrol Energy and Toyota Tsusho Partnership

In March 2019, Kontrol Energy and Toyota Tsusho formed an agreement to offer smart factory technology solutions to OEMs in the automotive industry to increase production, manage energy, improve operating efficiencies, and reduce operating costs via digitization, real-time data analysis, and machine learning. This can be achieved by the integration of Kontrol’s Internet of Things (IoT) hardware and software products with Toyota Tsusho’s operating improvement platforms and power generation products for the North American automobile and parts OEMs. According to the agreement, Kontrol offers the designing and monitoring software, quality assurance, and technical support to TTCI and its clients. It also does the designing and installation of building automation systems and heating and ventilation equipment. On the other hand, Toyota Tyushi obtains customers and carries out engineering, deployment, and after-sales services with clients.

Tempo Automation Forms Contract with Lockheed Martin

Tempo Automation formed a contract agreement with Lockheed Martin in March 2019. The reason behind the latter choosing the former is that Tempo greatly focuses on their software automation technology to develop a digital thread from creation to delivery. Its software links several operations of finished PCB assemblies such as order processing, parts sourcing, factory operations, shipment, and more. Tempo’s automated processes facilitate quick quotation, development, and delivery of high complexity printed circuit board assemblies. The company’s customer base can minimize the time for production and launch and obtain useful information throughout the manufacturing process, leading to superior technology in finished products.

Dassault Systèmes Collaborates with ABB

The aim of the partnership between Dassault and ABB is to develop software for digital industrial solutions based on the integration of the firms’ PLM and automation software products. The collaboration combines ABB’s Ability platform and Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform and develops on the firms’ strong installed base, deep domain expertise, and global customer access. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO at ABB said that the alliance would help best serve their customers and drive innovation and customer value, as well as transform their value chain to tap the enormous opportunities of industrial digitalization.

Yamaha Motors Showcases Factory Automation Technologies

At Hannover Messe, which is the world’s leading trade show for industrial technology, Yamaha Motors will be demonstrating technologies such as the Linear Conveyor Module LCM 100, a linear motor-based transport robot and the fast and precise SCARA robot. The products are aimed at facilitating increased productivity and variability on production lines, thereby providing the best solutions for factory automation. The LCM 100 can quickly transport work pieces and can be assembled directly on the slider, which reduces the transfer time drastically. The robot can change the stop position and process similar operations. The SCARA robot ‘YK 400 XR’ greatly helps in shortening the cycle time of the coating process.

Omron Automation Americas Exhibits at Automate Show

At the Automate Show, Omron Automation will be exhibiting many of the world’s cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for traceability and flexible manufacturing. The products are aimed at aiding manufacturers to enhance productivity, flexibility, and human-machine interaction. The company plans to present its Factory Harmony exhibit, a multifaceted display offering a vision of the manufacturing floor of the future. The demos show ways in which machines can interact effectively with humans on the factory floor. Other robotic solutions to be exhibited include the company’s TM Series collaborative robot, which is a flexible machine designed to facilitate human-machine collaboration, and the LD Series mobile robots that are designed to transport substances easily throughout the factory. Both the products are aimed at aiding companies to cater to the burgeoning need for customization without totally reconfiguring their production lines.

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Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific

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A new World Bank report on the challenges facing the Pacific region’s outer island communities identifies investment in people and livelihoods as a key for inclusive economic growth.    

Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific looks at the challenges Pacific governments must address to provide services and infrastructure to populations spread across hundreds of islands spanning the vast Pacific Ocean. The report puts forward a series of practical steps that countries can take to overcome these challenges in a way that supports resilient and inclusive economic growth.

“Many Pacific countries are faced with significant challenges in delivering services and connecting remote, outer island communities; with difficult decisions around resources and how to best invest often limited resources into outer island communities,” said the report’s lead author, World Bank Lead Economist for Fiscal Policy and Sustainable Growth Robert Utz.

“This report aims to provide Pacific governments, development partners and decision-makers with evidence to assess options for fostering development for the people in those outer islands, so they can make stronger contributions to the larger economic development of the whole country.”   

The report identifies six guiding economic policy principles:

1)     Policy solutions that seek to achieve equitable increases in living standards need to be grounded in an understanding of the economic implications of the Pacific region’s unique economic geography.

2)     Outer islands’ development should be assessed from a spatial perspective; one that considers interactions with the country’s main island and the region beyond.

3)     A balanced approach that combines investments in urban areas to accommodate migration from outer islands to main islands with support for outer island populations is likely to achieve better welfare and equity outcomes than an approach that neglects one side or the other.

4)     Growth-enhancing investments should be guided by clearly-identified opportunities, rather than by a desire to try to equalize economic opportunities across islands.

5)     With limited scope to close the gap in economic opportunities between outer and main islands investments to promote livelihoods and human development should be given preference.

6)     Outer islands are subject to a complex political economy of intra-island and outer island-main island relationships that need to be considered in development interventions.

“This is an important and timely study,” said Denton Rarawa, Senior Economic Advisor at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. “The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to address the institutional, service delivery and capacity gaps of nations across the Pacific. As we strive for greater vaccination rates and begin to think about how we’d like to rebuild after the pandemic, I believe this report has a lot to offer the future of the Pacific, especially in our efforts to leave no one behind.”   

The Archipelagic Economies report is a companion publication to the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series, which in 2017 and 2018 looked at opportunities for economic growth in Pacific Islands Countries across key sectors including tourism, fisheries, and labour mobility. 

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 87 projects totaling US$2.09 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

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Global economic recovery continues but remains uneven

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The global economy is growing far more strongly than anticipated a year ago but the recovery remains uneven, exposing both advanced and emerging markets to a range of risks, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.

The OECD says extraordinary support from governments and central banks helped avoid the worst once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the vaccine roll-out continuing and a gradual resumption of economic activity underway, the OECD projects strong global growth of 5.7% this year and 4.5% in 2022, little changed from its May 2021 Outlook of 5.8% and 4.4% respectively.

Countries are emerging from the crisis with different challenges, often reflecting their pre-COVID 19 strengths and weaknesses, and their policy approaches during the pandemic. Even in the countries where output or employment have recovered to their pre-pandemic levels, the recovery is incomplete, with jobs and incomes still short of the levels expected before the pandemic.

Large differences in vaccination rates between countries are adding to the unevenness of the recovery. Renewed outbreaks of the virus are forcing some countries to restrict activities, resulting in bottlenecks and adding to supply shortages.  

There is a marked variation in the outlook for inflation, which has risen sharply in the US and some emerging market economies but remains relatively low in many other advanced economies, particularly in the euro area.

A rapid increase in demand as economies reopen has pushed up prices in key commodities such as oil and metals as well as  food, which has a stronger effect on inflation in emerging markets. The disruption to supply chains caused by the pandemic has added to cost pressures. At the same time, shipping costs have increased sharply.

But the Interim Outlook says that these inflationary pressures should eventually fade. Consumer price inflation in the G20 countries is projected to peak towards the end of 2021 and slow throughout 2022. Wage growth remains broadly moderate and medium-term inflation expectations remain contained.

The report warns that to keep the recovery on track stronger international efforts are needed to provide low-income countries with the resources to vaccinate their populations, both for their own and global benefits.

Macroeconomic policy support is still needed as long as the outlook is uncertain and employment has not yet recovered fully, but clear guidance is called upon from policymakers to minimise risks looking forward. Central banks should communicate clearly about the likely sequencing of moves towards eventual policy normalisation and the extent to which any overshooting of inflation targets will be tolerated. The report says fiscal policies should remain flexible and avoid a premature withdrawal of support, operating within credible and transparent medium-term fiscal frameworks that provide space for stronger public infrastructure investment.

Presenting the Interim Economic Outlook alongside Chief Economist Laurence Boone, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said: “The world is experiencing a strong recovery thanks to decisive action taken by governments and central banks at the height of the crisis. But as we have seen with vaccine distribution, progress is uneven. Ensuring the recovery is sustained and widespread requires action on a number of fronts – from effective vaccination programmes across all countries to concerted public investment strategies to build for the future.”

Ms Boone said: “Policies have been efficient in buffering the shock and ensuring a strong recovery; planning for more efficient public finances, shifted towards investment in physical and human capital is necessary and will help monetary policy to normalise smoothly once the recovery is firmly established.”

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Financing Options Key to Africa’s Transition to Sustainable Energy

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A new whitepaper outlining the key considerations in setting the course for Africa’s energy future was released today at the 2021 Sustainable Development Impact Summit. The report, “Financing the Future of Energy,” outlines Africa’s electricity landscape and financing options in context with the global drive to reduce carbon emissions.

Africa’s power sector will play a central role in the transition from fossil fuel-driven power generation to a renewable-strong energy mix. According to the whitepaper written in collaboration with Deloitte, the migration to a multi-stakeholder-oriented net-zero power grid is being driven by “the 3Ds:”

  • Decarbonization: moving from fossil fuel sources to renewables
  • Decentralization: Shifting from centrally managed generation, transmission, and distribution to decentralized systems
  • Digitalization: Leveraging digital technology to advance the transition

The report contends that new coalitions and investments with developed nations and NGOs including the World Economic Forum must coordinate and enable countries to leapfrog existing technologies and infrastructure.

“The need for digitally smarter utility platforms and sustainable development programs will guide global leaders in helping to shape equitable and inclusive recovery programs,” said Chido Munyati, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. “The entire continent remains vulnerable, but this whitepaper offers a view on what are viable financing options that exist today for clean energy sustainability and equitable recovery for all of Africa.

Funding will be the biggest hurdle to ensuring Africa’s sustainable transition to Renewables at scale; there are many financing solutions available,” said Mario Fernandes, Director, Africa Power Utilities and Renewables, Deloitte. “Africa’s winners will be the ones that are able to leverage what exists while creating an enabling environment for the private sector through a Renewables Energy Investment facility.”

Case studies in China and India showed that financing solutions for a clean energy transition often involve long cycles. Economic booms in these countries resulted in a significant shift in carbon emissions. Since similar economic booms are expected across Africa, the report highlights how crucial it is to anchor growth in technologies that can enable lower emissions.

While Africa’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel significantly lags behind those of other continents, it still carries a huge potential to accelerate the transition to a net-zero future. Currently, half of the continent lives without adequate access to electricity. As energy demands increase, the energy gap could be bridged through clean energy alternatives, if the financing solutions are employed now.

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