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Thailand pushes productivity through automation and robotics

June 1, 2023
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin’s history in the auto industry and in industrial automation technology should present opportunities to pursue joint projects.

Thailand is boosting the use of automation and electronics in its companies.

With its Thailand 4.0 strategy, the country is promoting the use of technology-driven solutions to advance its manufacturing capabilities. Thai factories are incorporating cutting-edge technologies such as smart devices, industrial robotics, Internet of Things solutions, remote sensors, and controllers.

Among Southeast Asian nations, Thailand has the largest number of industrial robots installed, and it ranks second in automation and robotics, after Singapore.

Thailand is promoting the use of technology in its fastest-growing industries, such as next-generation automotive and smart electronics, medical devices, agriculture, biotechnology, and food and beverages.

Thailand’s Board of Investment is offering a series of incentives to encourage companies to incorporate automation and robotics. They include import duty exemptions for machinery and corporate income tax waivers, as well as non-tax incentives such as work permits and full foreign ownership of automation and robotics companies.

The automotive industry, one of Thailand’s most important sectors, is among the leaders is adopting automation and robotics. Thailand is known as Southeast Asia’s automotive manufacturing hub, with about 1,800 companies in the sector, including 30 to 40 major vehicle manufacturers. The automobile and auto parts industry, largely export-driven, accounts for more than 10% of the country’s gross domestic product and employs more than 500,000 people.

Ford Motor Co. recently announced a $900 million investment in its factories in Thailand for new technologies and systems—the company’s largest single investment there. Ford is nearly doubling the number of robots at its Thai body shop and paint shop.

In addition, the Thai auto industry is turning more of its attention to electric vehicles (EVs), which generally use more robotic and automated production lines than internal combustion vehicles use. Thailand’s state-owned energy group, PTT, and Taiwan’s Foxconn recently announced they are establishing a joint venture company to produce EVs in Thailand starting in 2024. The agreement cited automation and robotics as key factors that will increase production capacity and reduce costs in the $1.4 billion project.

The Thai government’s National Innovation Agency has created a special economic zone, the Eastern Economic Corridor, as a technology innovation hub. The National Innovation Agency also has proclaimed 2023 as Thai-French Innovation Year, promoting cooperation between the two countries in science, technology, and entrepreneurship.

As Thai businesses seek to add automation and robotics, Wisconsin companies in those industries may find new opportunities for their products and services.

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