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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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German companies boost smart nation push

Schaeffler Group and Sennheiser bank on innovation to bring in the latest mechanical and sound technology to Singapore and ASEAN.

Boasting over 100 years in the mechanical and mechatronics fields, Schaeffler Group continues to trailblaze in Singapore as it engages with the latest technology that Industry 4.0 has to offer. Greater interconnectivity amidst the Internet of Things (IoT) has allowed Schaeffler Group to create its own Schaeffler Smart EcoSystem, which omprises all necessary transformational elements from a simple mechanical component to the provision of digital services.

Helmut Bode, CEO Asia-Pacific, Schaeffler Group, said that amongst other things, they recognise that Industry 4.0 is an interdisciplinary approach. Without this perspective, companies will be challenged as they do things on their own and produce different standards, missing interfaces, and incomparable and non-transparent services. To prevent these costly challenges, Schaeffler has decided to invest heavily on digitisation, artificial intelligence (AI), smart factories, and robotics, and to create hybrid activities that integrate these various solutions.

Bode, a homegrown talent of Schaeffler with 37 years in the company, said that they count on intelligent networks connecting product development, production, logistics, customers, and suppliers. Schaeffler uses a technological base of digitally linked systems that make the most of the options for autonomous production and plants operations, where machines, products and people collaborate directly with one another.

Leveraging IoT
The Schaeffler Smart EcoSystem features three elements: mechatronic solution, virtual twin, and applications. Th mechatronic solution includes sensorised components and actuators as data source while the virtual twin is composed of calculation models and tools and big data evaluation. Finally, the EcoSystem turns up with applications, which are derived from the information collected and processed.

“For Schaeffler internally, with the ‘Digital Agenda’ we organize all affected areas under one umbrella - Products & Services, Machines & Processes, Analysis & Simulation and User Experience & Customer Value — to benefit and learn — and at the end connect to each other for success. For Schaeffler externally, we partner up with the right customers and suppliers, for instance in strategic partnerships with leading cloud service providers,” Bode said.

In Singapore, Schaeffler’s Mobility for Tomorrow strategy sets a benchmark for the city’s various new mobilit technology such as autonomous vehicles, electric personal mobility, electric car sharing, and V2X. The company has been a consistent leader for electric mobility in the city, and they have moved their technology exponentially towards autonomous people movers.

Strong government infrastructure, support and talent pool have allowed Schaeffler to cement its place in Singapore, and Bode said they believe that the city will be one of the first few countries who will lead in the rolling out of new urban mobility solutions. The company has partnered with one of the best universities in the city to come up with a research lab that will transport Singapore to its future as a global center for mobility.

"Singapore has the resources and the services of experts and leading companies that focus on predictive transportation. Currently, Schaeffler Hub for Advanced Research at NTU (Nanyang Technological University) in Singapore — focuses on studying aspects of personal urban mobility and intelligent transportation systems which aim to achieve local transportation concepts that meet the city’s needs,” Bode added.

At the end of the day, the goal for Schaeffler would be to derive customer value from their technological knowhow, which is a deep understanding of rolling bearings and systems as well as their behaviour under various conditions. Bode said that many of these are measurable, but the difference would be in the interpretation of data and the creation of value-added services for customers. Schaeffler has the expertise to do just that — create reliable predictions and recommend the best course of action.

The company is expected to grow further as they increase their share of the business in Industry 4.0. Within the next three to five years, Bode said that they will ramp up initiatives in robotics and e-mobility while collaborating with existing and new partners. Their goal will always be to become the first choice of their customers as they both move forward together.

Shaping the future of audio
Over the past year, Sennheiser has stepped up its social digital marketing efforts in the ASEAN region even as it continues to drive innovation across various digital platforms. The sound giant has highlighted its focus on the customer journey and staying relevant to its clientele in the form of the right products, wherever they are and whatever they do.

Martin Low, managing director, Sennheiser, said that the company has been trying to address the challenges put forward by digital disruption alongside the need to keep the Sennheiser Customer Experience enhanced.

“Our Singapore office is the regional headquarters responsible for 19 markets in neighbouring countries, predominantly the ASEAN countries. We are responsible for sales, marketing, and after-sales service, and because of our wide coverage, we try to be as efficient as possible by ensuring that our processes are digitised, streamlined, and strategised,” Low added.

Sennheiser’s innovations in technology have revolved across consumer audio, professional audio, and business communications, and Low said that all three business segments address different verticals. The company continues to roll out the latest in wireless headphones, featuring convenient multi-connection capability and fitted with technology such as Bluetooth 4.2 and Qualcomm® apt-X™. Most of their newest headphones are capable of 3-way calling support and come with a three-button remote that allows control of music and calls with ease.

“We try to come up with tailor-made audio technology that can meet the demands of our very diverse market. From sound enthusiasts to office professionals to musicians, our customers know that they can trust our brand to give them the best customer experience possible,” said Low.

Customers can rely on the company’s focus on innovation, with some of the latest being HE-1, the first electrostatic headphone equipped with a Cool Class A MOS-FET high-voltage amplifier. Reputed as the world’s most expensive headphones at US$55,000, the HE-1 is handcrafted using best in class materials such as Carrara marble, made famous from Michelangelo’s sculptures. The pristine audio quality is made possible by a a 500-volt tube amplifier and two platinumvaporized diaphragms which oscillate between gold-vaporized glass electrodes.

Sennheiser also takes pride in its AMBEO Smart Headset, which features Active Noise Cancelling and Transparent Hearing, on top of special microphones that can capture crystal clear 3D sound to complement videos taken with an iOS device. Meanwhile, the company’s best-selling PXC 550 Wireless features NoiseGard™ hybrid adaptive noise cancellation technology, an ear cup-mounted touch control panel and voice prompt system, and 30 hours of battery with a single charge. Business executives have enjoyed the PXC 550, especially during periods of frequent travel.

Putting a premium on audio
Sennheiser’s advanced technology extends to the workplace, with products capable of facilitating wireless collaboration across various devices from desktop computers to desk phones and mobile phones for maximum device flexibility. The company’s TeamConnect Portfolio, the first of its kind, can take meetings anytime, anywhere.

TeamConnect technology can help users connect with any device (BYOD) via Bluetooth or via USB or 3.5mm jack audio cable and supports multiple simultaneous audio channels.

“Many companies often invest in good audio, but in fact, often the audio is neglected. It is very common that employees struggle to set up for an audio conference call due to dropped calls, intermittent signals, and latency. Sennheiser Business Communications audio conferencing products were designed to address these common problems. At the same time, businesses can expect cost savings if virtual online meetings can efficiently replace physical travel,” said Low.

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