Mechatronics plays an important role in economic recovery by helping companies to increase productivity in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was expressed by WOU School of Science & Technology Deputy Dean (Industry & Outreach) Dr Teoh Ping Chow during the online talk on â€śMechratonicsâ€™ Role in Facing the Covid-19 Pandemicâ€ť. About 25 participants attended the talk organised today by the School in collaboration with the Penang Regional Centre.
He said mechatronics can create technology that replaces humans on dangerous tasks and reduces human interactions. He cited a recent example of the Malaysian-made robot, Makcik Kiah 19, which helped the frontliners in a hospital in Johor to deliver food and medicines to the patients. However, this is not the only role of mechatronics in facing the pandemic.
He clarified that the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0) is collaboration between humans and robots/machines to speed up production. This involves the automation of data, processes and physical movement and the removal of repetitive tasks by humans, which are all related to mechatronics. â€śIn IR 4.0, we are integrating data, software and physical movement,â€ť he elaborated.
Dr Teoh believed that most multinational corporations (MNCs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) still employ mixed automation and manual processes due to the investment costs needed to achieve IR 4.0. He highlighted that not all products are cost effective to be automated, infrastructures are not ready, a difficulty to access data in equipment, the machines are unable talk to each other, and different databases have different data format.
He said due to the costs, employers are hesitant to replace humans with automation in the production line. He acknowledged that the new normal of social distancing and other SOPs in the factory environment have led to reduced workforce, staggering production, drop in productivity, slower supply chain, and increase in operating costs.
In stressing that the key to economic recovery is increased productivity, he said this is where mechatronics plays a key role. He opined that consumer pressure will force companies to move towards implementing IR 4.0, adding, â€śWe will have a demand for multidisciplinary skilled workers with knowledge of electronics, software and mechanical, all of which mechatronics provides.â€ť
Dr Teoh shared that machines and systems can replace humans on higher efficiency tasks and repetitve work. â€śSo the biggest role of mechatronics is to provide innovation to increase productivity using the same resources, and being the driving force in economic recovery.â€ť
He said companies would need mechatronics specialists like automation engineer, control system engineer, data engineer, instrumentation engineer, project engineer, software engineer, system engineer, and maintenance engineer, in the near future.
During Q&A, he said the pandemic has created a mindset shift among employers in which they desire employees with knowledge outside their own fields, and have an urgency to achieve IR4.0. Hence, mechatronics graduates will be highly in demand.