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Japan's Sumitomo helps Southeast Asian factories go digital

Planned 'one-stop' service to range from identifying problems to AI installation

Sumitomo set up a demo room at Thang Long Industrial Park in Vietnam to showcase its digital transformation services. (Photo courtesy of Sumitomo)

TOKYO -- Trading house Sumitomo Corp. will help manufacturers in Southeast Asia digitize their operations, becoming one of the first providers of comprehensive support from pinpointing productivity challenges to introducing artificial intelligence.

The Japanese company aims to serve 600 automotive, materials and other manufacturers -- mostly tenants at the industrial parks it operates in Southeast Asia -- by fiscal 2030, drawing on expertise gained through working with group units.

Sumitomo created a demo room last month at Thang Long Industrial Park in Vietnam to show tenant companies the benefits of services such as installing an AI camera. Personnel sent from Japan consult on undertaking a digital transformation to enhance productivity and improve quality, cost and delivery.

The offering, slated to launch in fiscal 2023, will be delivered mostly as software as a service. It also covers the development of efficient systems for inventory management, measures to visualize the utilization of production equipment and digital publication of daily reports.

Sumitomo has been introducing digital technologies at many of its over 100 related manufacturing businesses ranging from electronic parts makers to metal processors, amassing know-how. The trading house will take advantage of AI expertise at information technology subsidiary SCSK as well as tap the group's digital transformation center, formed in 2018.

A trial at a household goods manufacturer's assembly line in Japan found that the new service improved the utilization rate by roughly 10%.

Sumitomo seeks to become a "one-stop shop for small and midsize businesses" in Southeast Asia adopting digital technology, and it hopes to propose various solutions including measures to address climate change, said Toshikazu Nambu, executive vice president.

Beyond Vietnam, the company plans to bring the service to its industrial parks in Indonesia and the Philippines. Bangladesh, where it started selling space at a park in March, also will be considered. Sumitomo operates industrial parks in four Southeast Asian nations and two South Asian countries.

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