Saturday, 27 May 2017
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Earlier this month the world was rocked by the WannaCry cyber worm. Many of us, for the first time, heard of the term "ransomware". Most significant, it served as an eye opener for the ever-evolving threats we face as we move into the fourth industrial revolution - a future where connectivity is at the very core of our daily lives.

Today, a car processes a massive amount of data. Its electronic control unit processes fuel injection timing, engine torque and load, vehicle speed, spark plug firing, just to name a few.

If we take a look at mid to high range models in the market, consumers receive even more onboard diagnostics, including tyre pressure and fuel distance, not to mention automated safety features, such as lane departure warnings and blind spot detection.

Last year, 94 million cars were produced worldwide. Imagine this number growing, with each connected to the other – telematics, user behaviour, traffic flow patterns, engine operations and fuel consumption, all connected to servers around the world.

If we want to make connectivity our future, we must move the cybersecurity agenda now.

While organisations such as CyberSecurity Malaysia and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) have reached tremendous in-roads in enhancing cyber security within the country, keeping our cyberspace free of attacks is everybody's responsibility.

WannaCry is estimated to have affected 200,000 victims with more than 230,000 computer infected. With such massive damage, the public awareness litmus test is simple. How many of us were aware of the attack? Second, and most important, how many among us have installed the latest security patch on our operating system?

If the likely answer for most of us is a blank, then the way forward is quite simple – more must be done to raise public awareness of the need for cyber security.

While Malaysia Automotive Institute’s Industry 4.0 initiatives have taken cyber security as one of the main pillars, a key national agenda would be to increase participation of the public in online security initiatives.

Recent breakthoughs included adoption of strong multi-factor authentication, in which access is granted beyond passwords, requiring user to add another authentication layer such as fingerprints, retinal scans or voice activation.

With this in mind, local businesses now face new opportunities created from such demand for online security.

While our domestic industry has the competitive advantage of understanding the local market when it comes to security behaviour, I urge more parties to seize this opportunity to allow locally developed cyber technology to take centre stage.

Technology may be the security enabler, but at the end of the day, people are what matter the most.

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The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

In its previous article, this column discussed new frontiers of opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by shifting business models towards global value chain thinking. In this article, we delve further into the implementation of such paradigm shifts.

It was 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell patented the first device that will eventually become the wired telephone. It took almost an entire century for Motorola to demonstrate the first handheld mobile phone in 1973.

The first smartphones were seen at the turn of the century, less than three decades later. In 2017, smartphones have evolved beyond this, making them our personal assistants, and also allow us to communicate visually with anyone around the world.

If it took a mere decade for the smartphone revolution to render copper-wire services obsolete, imagine what will happen over the next few years in an automotive industry that utilises thousands of components.

Disruptions will force businesses to reduce risk by focusing on specialisation, to ensure that the impacts of global disruptions are shouldered by many specialists in the entire work process. This chain of businesses will make up what will be referred to as the "Global Value Chain".

SMEs will need to develop expertise in a specific activity, or "values", in order to remain competitive in a future world where products and services require higher complexity, and this demand is expected to grow at an exponential rate.

As discussed previously, it would be a daunting task for SMEs, even large corporations, to maintain such capabilities in-house, under one roof. This is simply because global disruptions are expected to occur at a higher frequency than previously seen in earlier technology revolutions.

The silver lining is that a breakdown of specialisation is an advantage for SMEs, as smaller operations are much easier to realign to newer trends. The question that remains is - how this can be done with limited capital?

In embracing Industry 4.0, the government recognises that heavy investment is required to enhance digitalisation and connectivity.

Issues surrounding Industry 4.0 compatibility requires cloud connectivity and holistic processing of 3d collaborative designs, engineering simulation, manufacturing execution systems, logistics, telematics, aftermarket data and 3D printing.

Conventional processes will need digital upgrades, with the "Internet of Things" and Big Data Management becoming an increasingly ubiquitous feature to remain competitive.

To enable businesses, in particular SMEs, to bridge this gap, the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) has developed such systems within its campuses, open for lease by all industry stakeholders. These systems, developed under MAI's Industry 4.0 initiatives, aim to assist businesses, academia and government organisations in building comprehension and integration with future business technology.

MAI's cloud computing servers have been set up to accommodate large amounts of data, connected to the systems mentioned above for use by the industry.

Coupled with MAI's human capital programs that cater to all industry needs within the manufacturing and aftersales sectors, this holistic system allows technology penetration into the SME workflow without risking high capital investments.

As these businesses grow with technological capabilities, we are more than happy to assist companies in developing in-house capabilities that are in line with the business needs of the future.

If you are a business owner, take a step into the future and contact us for more details.

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The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute

SME INTEGRATION - Need for specialisation to join global value chain


One of the important talk points from recent economic tides is the integration of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into the Global Value Chain (GVC).
Traditionally, participation into the global economy was based on supply chain models, i.e. as a business entity, specialising in specific products and services and offering them to the global markets.
Supply Chain models often require overall ownership of processes, from product development, logistics, operations and even marketing. This means that companies aiming to compete globally requires them to master all the above, despite not having the comparative advantage to do so.
On the other hand, value chain thinking focuses on value addition to the sub processes within the entire supply chain. This allows companies to develop specialisation to a specific process that adds value to the entire product development and delivery cycle.
For example, a steering wheel module requires numerous specialisation to complete its supply, including plastic injection, steel forming, air bag module assembly, and leather stitching.
Within these sub processes, specialisations are required on each level, including research and development on both product function and materials selection, marketing knowledge, process expertise, logistics, and perhaps even prototyping capabilities.
This need to develop a wide range of specialisation has, for quite some time, deterred SMEs from entering the global market, handicapped by massive capital risk and talent needs.
Trends show that this thinking will change, most likely resulting in a migration of supply chain models to a global value chain model.
This opens opportunities for SMEs to start penetrating the global markets through the specialisation of specific processes, reducing capital expenditure and focussing on processes they are best at.
If the region has learned anything from the 2011 Tohuku earthquake and floods in Thailand, it should be that supply chain models often result in single sourcing, which is extremely vulnerable to disruptions such as the natural disasters.
Original equipment manufacturings (OEMs) around the world are now realising there can never be sustainable without sustainable value chains.
Therefore, it is high time that Malaysian businesses start looking into new business models.
Firstly, we must start recognising that cheap labour, which used to be our competitive advantage some decades ago, has been replaced with many over qualified graduates seeking challenges in a high income economy.
This means that we have reached the point where we cannot be consumers of technology, but technology based innovators - possessing the abilities and capacities to bridge technology readily available around the globe and utilising them to breed and create new value-adding activities.
OEMs around the world are sourcing their parts and services from around the globe. At the same time, the fourth industrial revolution has allowed a level of communication and process digitalisation that has paved the way for more SMEs to be part of the global value chain.
If there is such a time for our domestic industry to breach its glass ceiling, that time is now.
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The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

HIGH-VALUE EMPLOYMENT - It's time for holistic planning and implementation


On Monday, Malaysia, along with many nations celebrated International Worker’s Day.
For many, it was an opportunity to take a break from work, especially since we were fortunate that this year, it coincided with the weekend.
While we celebrate the achievement of our nation’s workforce, it is equally important to spend some time pondering the future. In this case, the future source of livelihood for the millions in need of quality jobs and career advancement to further enhance the standard of living for all Malaysians.
As the world moves through its fourth industrial revolution, it is important for the nation to address the future employment needs.
The future of products, businesses, manufacturing and services within Industry 4.0 needs no introduction. This column has discussed the possible scenarios extensively in previous articles.
With respect to the automotive industry, the major talking points specific to employment and career advancements will most certainly revolve around job scope evolution and talent development.
It is said that throughout all the industrial revolutions, including this fourth one, manufacturing is the first sector to feel the impacts. The culmination of the first three revolutions, which foresees rapid advances in connective automation, will not only disrupt blue collar jobs, but also the while collar positions that manage them.
Even before Industry 4.0, the last few decades have seen the global disappearance of jobs that require both precision and repetition, replaced by multi-axial robots that have taken over jobs such as welding, machining and assembly.
While this phenomenon was more apparent in developed countries – Malaysia, will most likely face the same issues, as the cheap labour commodity contradicts with our ambitions for high income status. Imagine now, the disruption to higher level jobs due to enhanced connectivity and data analytics, synonymous with Industry 4.0, paired with current automation technology.
Industry 4.0 may sound like a scary outlook. For me, negative impacts can be managed with positive takeaways. Disruptions affect everyone – but they are also opportunities, as this very disruption also resets the game, paving chances for those who reach up to remain strong players.
It is best to note that while some jobs will be reduced because of Industry 4.0, new jobs will be created – it is not meant to eliminate livelihood, but rather a shift and remodel in workplace demands.
In conclusion, what must take place is the holistic planning and implementation of human capital development programs that shift towards the demands of the future. After all, it is for this very reason the automotive industry was created – to spur high value jobs through the participation of Malaysians in an industry that demands technological prowess.
It is my hope that by the first day of May of next year, we are closer to this goal.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

ENHANCING CONSUMER AWARENESS - Autoshow to provide more immersive experience


When the National Automotive Policy 2014 was announced three years ago, little did we know that in the next few years, we will face economic uncertainty.
Despite significant gains in 2014, in early 2015, there were signs of an appreciation of the US Dollar.
The government, with full support for the industry, quickly moved to anticipate the issue and implement the measures required to counter its effects.
Despite pressing times, the industry still recorded its highest ever sales and production volumes that year.
Although the figures dropped in 2016, data showed a more holistic gain. We saw an increase in the number of jobs created, and recorded higher exports of automotive parts and components.
Registration of Energy Efficient Vehicles (EEVs) rose to 42.8 percent, surpassing the national target of 40 percent for that year.
Such is the resilience we see in our automotive ecosystem. The tireless efforts and collaboration between government bodies and industry players have contributed immensely to the enhancement of competitiveness of the ecosystem, allowing more choices for consumers at all market levels.
With that said, it is key to synergise our efforts with the needs of the consumer – as they are the most important stakeholder.
To implement a successful EEV program, it is important that consumers play a more participative role in the purchasing process.
In the modern age of social media, this process has expanded beyond the time the customer walks through the showroom door to the point of sales. It is now an immersive and most importantly, a continuous experience.
In of the digital age, the subject of transportation and mobility is always an issue that dominates our airtime and attention span, even when we don’t have a need for a new car. The market is continuously excited with the latest models that consume less fuel and produce less emissions.
We always seek the latest trends, technologies and features that fit our needs. Most of the time, the consumer has done his or her homework way before the purchase process is even initiated.
With that in mind, this year’s Malaysia Autoshow 2017 aims to further enhance awareness and experience for the consumer. For the first time, the autoshow will be held at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS).
The largest exhibition space in the country was chosen to provide consumers and car lovers with a more immersive autoshow experience.
The extensive roads and tracks around the venue allows for better test drive experience for the vehicles put on show, allowing consumers to understand the benefits of EEVs first hand.
The large exhibition halls allow more exhibitors to be part of the Malaysia Autoshow 2017. While more vehicles, technologies and other exhibits are on display, this year’s event will feature a larger automotive conference.
Visitors will have the opportunities to meet and engage with top automotive personalities, and gain more insight of automotive trends, technologies, as well as business and career opportunities within our growing automotive industry.
Now in it’s third year, the Malaysia Autoshow 2017 will be a product and reflection of the hard work put forth by all stakeholders.
It will be a symbol of the resilience of the automotive industry, and an annual gathering where consumer’s choice and industry technology come together under one roof.
I believe this market amalgamation will add momentum to our efforts to enhance the automotive sector to achieve greater heights.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

CREATING CHAMPIONS - Learn and train from the best around the world

Azizulhasni Awang’s world title at the recent Track Cycling World Championship is a breath of fresh air for us as a nation.
It is an inspiring win for Malaysia, particularly as the road to this great achievement has been steeped in tales of perseverance and comebacks from numerous shortfalls.
The story of Azizulhasni’s win has been a nail biting, yet interesting one to follow. I remember staying up to watch this young man, which I’ve only heard about for the first time, compete in the Keirin final at the 2012 Olympics in London.
At that time, a young Malaysian in an Olympic cycling final was a rare, yet exciting experience not just for me, but for my entire family.
Despite the result, it was nonetheless an event that placed hope in our hearts. The hope turned into fruition 10 years later, last week.
All his hard work, including a severe injury, would result in the birth of a Malaysian World champion, in a sport where physique and size are common ingredients to victory.
I’m sure by now this gentleman from Terengganu has moved on from his victory, and eyeing for the next achievement – possibly that elusive Olympic gold medal. We too must move on, for we are only as good as our last performance.
As a nation we should not just learn from failure, but from the victories of others. A simple question – what can we learn from the decade long story of Azizulhasni?
For me, anything that we fight for is just like a sport. Business, education or any career for that matter, is also about competing for the top spot. Being a champion creates opportunities to create more champions.
For example, imagine how immersive training can be when you race with the best on a daily basis. It’s for this simple reason that sports nations like the US and Australia continue to create champion after champion. Champions are not born, they are created though the perseverance, dedication and commitment of the athlete and their team.
Azizulhasni was trained locally at first, and soon found himself studying sports science in Melbourne’s Victoria University, where he continued training as a professional cyclist. He was trained in local flavour, then shaped to face the world with those who had the experience and expertise. This simply made him improve faster, as learning and training from experts are highly effective routes to success.
Sometimes we say that doing things ourselves in our own backyards, are the most valuable way to success. That’s true to a certain extent, but in a fast paced world, knowledge and expertise are everywhere. We are taught to learn from our forefathers, as they are more experienced than us. In a globalised world, we must learn from the forefathers from around the globe.
In the end, the results will speak for itself.
The books, unfortunately or otherwise, only record the winners. While we aim for the top, we should also read the the chapters that make up the success story of our ventures. To be the best, we must learn and train with the best. After all, success is a journey, not a destination.
My heartiest congratulations to Azizulhasni Awang. May this be an inspiration to our learning nation.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

STRATEGIC THINKING - Tolerance key to meaningful progress


The 21st century has not been impressive in advancing tolerance. Just a few days ago, we saw deaths from a bombing in Egypt, with clear undertones of religious extremism.

The peace-loving people of Sweden were also rocked with a terror attack in its capital of Stockholm, less than two years after another racially motivated attack took place in a school.

It is ironic that it is also in this century, we have seen great leaps in technological advancements and the birth of a new industrial revolution.
Yet, we can only dream that the same technology can be used to address the armed conflicts that has claimed the lives of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent men, women and children in Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many more war-torn countries.

As we read about the horrors from the results of intolerance in the global news, we should be grateful that, although we undoubtedly have our own challenges on the domestic front, most of us have secure roofs over our heads and warm meals on our tables upon request. For most of us, our daily struggles are with the enhancement of our livelihood, and not the struggle to survive.
Tolerance, in any form or function, is not just about acceptance of existence. It bears a deeper meaning, in which we accept differences of a person, ideology or opinion, and giving great respect to its existence in parallel harmony, compatibility and co-existence with our own.

It is not just about allowing a person of different race or religion the space to co-exist, but the acknowledgement and true understanding of those difference so they can be celebrated and integrated with our own lives, cultures and practices.

The key word here is understanding, as well as the observance and practices towards achieving such understanding.

To understand means to observe different perspectives. In many of my previous articles in the columns, I have touched on the risks of short attention spans due to wide coverage of news.
Narratives often find themselves emboldened through mere repetition, yet does not offer a holistic account of the ground. In the struggle to find perspective, we give ourselves the “short version” of the truth – the version that is secure in fact but removed of context.

Great strategies are often derived from diverse perspectives, as they provide clear context for quality decision making.

To move forward, let’s all start listening – without prejudice or pre-conceived notions. Let us allow different ideas to swirl in our minds before forming opinions. Assume that humanity wants progress and to move forward, although we disagree on how that forward movement is implemented.
Weigh them, analyse its costs and benefits to society and the environment, and most of all, learn from each other’s experiences – as experience is not just gained on our own, but from the lessons learned from each other.

Undoubtedly, it is fun to always be right. Then again, being “right” is a matter of popular opinion. There was a time Galileo was the only one who was wrong.

“Tolerance may make us feel like we are losing the battle of authority. It is however a necessary loss in the war that is social progress.”

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION - Sensationalism ought to be tackled


MANY a times this column discussed the impacts of speculation on business operations and the livelihood of those working within these businesses.
The discussion revolved around half-baked truths and speculation causing the unnecessary apprehension and demotivation of stakeholders, leading to reduced productivity and market uncertainty.
This article focuses on truths, and how we move forward based on them.
In a time where social media is often an epicentre of information, the wiggle room afforded to those that relay information is getting smaller.
Most of the time spreading good news is difficult enough. Bad news is amplified, fingers are pointed and the blame and shame game starts, and small issues often dominate more important ones.
Especially for those who make a living out of the dissemination of information, the barriers of garnering audience attention have tumbled through the advent of technology. Nevertheless, aesier dissemination has also created the need to procure more effective ways to compete with such massive flows of content.
The free market of ideas and information undeniably has its advantages, especially when the public draws out multiple angles to a particular issue. The diversity of options, ideas and angles allows the public to judge the pros and cons of policy, forecast positive and negative outlooks and consequently make informed and educated decisions to safeguard their best interests.
However, when the competition for attention is intense, this may force information bearers to utilise "sensationalist" tactics.
Sensationalism often depicts the use of excitement at the expense of accuracy. Of course, the legal standards for false reporting are clear. However, there are no legal standards for using sentiment to drive readership hence this is where the issue begins. It is common to see truth used to solely to invoke anger and negative perceptions, as it is easier to gain attention through destruction, rather than construction.
While being creative in curating content is highly encouraged, one must be mindful of the impacts on such creativity.
In order to encourage social progress, it is important that the public at large be allowed to focus on their own social upward mobility.
For example, if someone works as an automotive engineer, he or she would be most productive when full focus is given to the daily technical problems at hand.
Imagine if a looming retrenchment was thrown  into the foray. Focus now shifts from the impending job related issues towards basic ricebowl matter.
Having said this, it is important to be responsible for the information thrown, either professionally or at a personal level. While construction criticism are encourage for social progress, sensationalism is slowly becoming a popular method that must be tackled.
Being cynical is often satisfying. However, we must not show strength through the weaknesses of others. It simply creates more cynicism, and hampers any fair grounds for meaningful dialogue and discussion.
The focus shift exemplified above is not just disruptive when discussing bread and butter issues. It affects society at all levels, from those going to and from work and worrying about the livelihood of the nation.
Anybody from my generation will remember  Jack Niclolas's infamous line, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth" from the film A few Good Men.
The thing is, we all want the truth. We just need to ensure society benefits from it.
The writer is chief executive officer of the Malaysia Automotive Institute.

GENDER EQUALITY - Rethinking the role of women in workplace


Statistics from the Ministry of Higher Education denote that in 2015, 54% of the total students enrolled in institutions of higher learning, comprising universities, polytechnics and community colleges - are female. Females also make up 43% of students enrolled in engineering or science and maths courses.
This is a clear demonstration of our nation’s progress towards gender equality.
However, this article is not about self praise, but looking at furthering gender equality at all levels of economic participation.
The statistics above can not be used as just a means of celebration for women, but an insight into our industrial future.
Although there are more than 1 million women entrepreneurs registered in Malaysia, there is no denying we need to see more participation of women in the higher echelons of executive or entrepreneurial ventures.
A significant percentage of females in universities today simply means that in the next generation, the female talent pool will be a significant economic contributor.
Therefore, in the immediate decades to come, one of the key national agendas will be the optimisation of talent utilisation in the industry - to allow the careers of women to flourish, and not be limited to domestic roles, wasting their talent halfway through their journey.
This means we must quickly look at means of allowing evenmore women to participate in the workforce, and overcome the barriers that create the "glass ceiling".
The barriers of female empowerment are not just a Malaysian problem, but a global one. Until today, even the United States of America has not found its first female president, although admittedly has come close in recent times.
European nations have seen more progress, while notable female leaders have achieved these historical milestones in Asia, such as in India, Pakistan and South Korea.
Reports suggest that while education opportunities for women is readily available, women still have issues penetrating high level careers, as they are expected to manage the domestic issues of the home.
This cultural acceptance may be a future problem when talent is in high demand.
Hence comes the conundrum of who takes the role of homemaker. It is admittedly still important, yet must be reinvented and managed for us to move forward with times.
This is where I believe with progress comes more opportunities. The advent of technology, if its penetration were managed, opens up the possibilities of working modes that allow both men and women to contribute their talents to the economy, yet share family responsibilities at the same time.  
There are many ideas to address this – flexible working hours, open office concepts, workplace nurseries, and immersive online communication tools.
All these have shown potential to meet the needs mentioned above and show more potential with the advancement of technology.
Most importantly, all players, be it government, industry or academia must be willing to address this future need. Discussion, dialogues and ideas must be allowed to thrive to create the flexibility for careers to flourish.
At the same time, opportunities do not bear fruit if women accept that their sole role of existence is to support the careers of their husbands. They must want, and take the opportunities as much as their male counterparts.
It will be a great loss to see half of our talent not be allowed to contribute to our great nation.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR EDUCATION - Industry opportunities must be met with passion by everyone


As the agency tasked with enhancing the Malaysia Automotive Industry, one of the major challenges, we have to address constantly has been the issue of awareness of industry opportunities.
The ecosystem that makes up the industry is vast, with a wide subject matters and an array of specialisations, which requires mastery of technical, non-technical and creative disciplines.
It is not just engines, nuts and bolts – it is both an art and science that finds emotional attachment to both business and consumer alike.
Firstly, many equate the automotive industry with our national carmakers. While they are undoubtedly movers of the industry, there are hundreds of firms that supply components to not just our national brands, but the 27 other vehicle assemblers that operate within our borders.
There are thousands of dealers, distributors and service centres that sell these cars and keep them in good working order.
Secondly, automotive jobs are not just for those that work on the production line. The industry comprises design and process engineers, quality managers, repair & servicemen, salesmen, sketch artists, fabric weavers, tool makers, bankers and insurance agents, just to name a few.
Name your interest, there is a career in the automotive industry that is relevant to you!
As we speak, we are continuously striving to maximise access to quality education and skills certification. Since the National Automotive Policy 2014 was announced, MAI has worked with the Department of Skills Development (JPK) and other  industry stakeholders to develop competency standards in both manufacturing and after sales sectors, through the publishing of 27 National Occupational Skills Standards to date.
We have also certified around 1,300 trainees with the Malaysian Skill Certificate as at December last year. This certification opens up greater opportunities for those who prefer the skills route to success.
With that in mind, my experience has taught me that skills and knowledge opportunities are everywhere. The important question is simple – does the passion exist to make the best of these opportunities?
I believe that there is a need for whole-hearted participation from all industry players to put country on the road towards automotive success.
We must realise, and implant this in the generations to come that there must be a paradigm shift in our mindsets that the pursuit of education, be it academic, skills or self-learned is a life-long endeavour.
This mindset should be towards the end goal of a successful career, and not just to land a well paying job. While more opportunity is created, I’d like to call for more interest and passion in the work we do.
It all starts with knowing who we are, our strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly developing pride in what we have, and want to achieve.
Find out what they are passionate about. Find out what they love doing. Then, match their passion to the right opportunities that will turn their potential into tangible contributions to our nation.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.
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