AaaS essential to digital transformation of small- to mid-size firms: Q&A with AIMS director Chien Chen-fu
Bryan Chuang, Taipei; Adam Hwang, DIGITIMES

Small- to medium-size manufacturers are important to Taiwan's economy, but most of them lack the human resources and cannot afford the expensive equipment and services needed for digital transformation. That is where Analytics-as-a-Service (AaaS) can help them, according to Chien Chen-fu, director for Artificial Intelligence for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Research Center (AIMS) at National Tsing Hua University.

Chien, in a recent interview by Digitimes, explained how AasS is essential for such firms to make flexible decisions and upgrade to smart manufacturing.

Q: What is AaaS?

A: Manufacturing industries in Taiwan are globally strong. But, with AI and big data analysis as tools, Taiwan-based manufacturers need smart manufacturing, flexible production and smart decision-making. What AaaS provides is algorithms for undertaking digital transformation.

For example, TSMC has installed smart manufacturing algorithms on equipment at its wafer fab in Nanjing, China, to completely control manufacturing processes. While large enterprises such as TSMC and AU Optronics (AUO) are capable of establishing their own algorithms for digital transformation, small- to medium-size manufacturers can acquire customized smart manufacturing algorithms from AaaS providers.

Q: Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs provides substantial subsidies to government-sponsored organizations to help small- to medium-size manufacturers in digital transformation and smart manufacturing. Why are academics or private consultants still needed?

A: Such government-sponsored organizations' help is on a project basis. When the subsidies are used up and the projects expire before the problems in smart manufacturing have been solved, the academics or private consultants can step in, helping address problems such as long-term maintenance of equipment. Therefore, small- to medium-size manufacturers' digital transformation and upgrade to smart manufacturing will eventually rely on private consultants.

Q: How is AaaS necessary for smart manufacturing?

A: In the electronics sector, Global Unichip and Faraday Technology provide analytical services for small-size IC design houses or companies which need to develop ICs. Even if manufacturers succeed in upgrade to smart manufacturing, they still need AaaS providers for technological maintenance services.

Q: How do AaaS providers help small- to medium-size manufacturers? And how can 5G be helpful for Taiwan's smart machinery industry?

A: Each AaaS provider has a team of experts separately specializing in IT, stock management, supply chain management, and so forth, and can save companies the trouble of seeking AI and big data analysis talent.

Taiwan's manufacturing sectors have rich domain knowledge and experience, which form an advantage for developing software used in smart manufacturing. 5G can lead to faster collection of data. But if there are no algorithms available or existing algorithms are not capable enough, 5G-added value cannot be created.


Chien Chen-fu, director for AIMS
Photo: Bryan Chuang, Digitimes, November 2020

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