SIRIM is a familiar name to Malaysians. The Sirim name is often associated with motorcycle helmets.
Helmets, without that Sirim mark of quality, have difficulty gaining consumer acceptance.
That quality has always been the hallmark of the Sirim brand, not just helmets, but a whole range of consumer products which demand safety in their use.
Many may not be aware that Sirim has also made contributions to the country beyond certifying quality especially towards modernizing manufacturing among the small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).
Though not quite as well publicized as the helmet story, there is no doubt that Sirim has made impressive contributions to the advancement of the manufacturing technology in the country.
The research and development (R&D) in manufacturing is actively pursued in Sirim.
In the excitement over Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) technologies, Sirim is again tasked by the International Trade and Industry Ministry to carry the flag of delivering the IR4.0 blueprint together with the other SME agencies under the ministry.
Few would disagree that disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Big Data are changing the face of the manufacturing industry in the world.
In line with "Industry4WRD: National Policy on Industry 4.0", Malaysia aims to make smart manufacturing the way to advance the productivity aspirations of the sector and move the industry into high technology mode.
According to Sirim president and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Ahmad Sabirin Arshad: "Sirim is a key driver of Malaysia's IR4.0 agenda. We are tasked by the government to assess SMEs' readiness to adopt IR4.0 technologies.
"Sirim also develops homegrown solutions to increase productivity and competitiveness of businesses, thus helping them enhance digital capacities and integrate smart manufacturing models, such as enterprise resource planning, intelligent facility management, shop floor automation and compliance."
Sirim is an ardent practitioner of international collaboration. Countries like Japan, South Korea and many more invest in international partnerships to further their interests in technology advancement and acquisition.
The Sirim president further explains: "We do so through the Sirim Fraunhofer Program, a strategic collaboration between Sirim and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, aimed at accelerating technology adoption among local SMEs.
"Sirim conducts comprehensive audits on the company's production, labor, management and technology capabilities.
"Our intervention is in the form of technical advisory, Innovation Accelerator programs, the introduction of integrated processes driven by real-time data management, and development of standards and best practices.
"This is in line with the national agenda under the 12th Malaysia Plan to accelerate the digitalization of micro enterprises and SMEs".
He also reveals that in under five years (2016-2021), 1,898 companies across all industries have benefited from this program, resulting in SMEs involved enjoying a 60 per cent increase in production capacity and 40 per cent hike in sales.
Few would dispute that the nation's journey to embrace IR4.0 is far from over. We are making headway, but more needs to be done. Now, it is premature to hold back the initiatives to collaborate, not just internationally but also locally.
Under the 12MP, the government has rightly gone ahead to formalize the setting up of the Research Management Unit, under the Economic Planning Unit.
The idea is to consolidate the R&D undertakings in the country so that the focus is on the high-impact researches, which will benefit the country.
Formerly proposed as the Research Management Agency, the concept is not much different from the models of R&D collaboration practiced in many technologically advanced countries.
In Germany, the Fraunhofer model of R&D management is synonymous with the technological successes in the European Union. Sirim has obviously chosen the right partner to bring such R&D culture to the organization.
With IR4.0, global manufacturing is witnessing a transformative change. The digitalization technologies under the IR4.0 umbrella forms the main driver.
The government has established the right governance infrastructure, including blueprints and institutional restructuring, to accelerate the change.
Sirim, as the nation's custodian of manufacturing R&D, is the right entity to coordinate the country's implementation of IR4.0. With the right strategy, and support, there is no reason why Sirim cannot make manufacturing smarter in the country.
The writer is a professor at the Tan Sri Omar Centre for STI Policy, UCSI University