July 14--IT policymakers should produce a more skilled electronics workforce and promote efficiency in electronics and automotive software to accommodate the development of integrated circuit (IC) design into higher quality manufacturing with the Asean Economic Community fast approaching.
"Enhancing people's IC design skills will strengthen the electronics industry. This can help operators have a profit margin of 20% or higher instead of 5% from labour-intensive manufacturing," said Apinetr Unakul, president of the Thai Embedded Systems Association (TESA).
Thailand's electronics manufacturing industry is worth 2 trillion baht, but there are fewer than 10 IC design firms.
For the automotive industry, global car makers have their own assembly plants in Thailand and generate a combined revenue of 1 trillion baht, but the country should focus on the higher automotive firmware industry, said Mr Apinetr. Automotive firmware plays an important role in the supply of car electronic parts. Some 30-50% of luxury car parts are electronic parts as they gradually replace mechanical parts.
TESA has a refined human resource development programme supported by the Board of Investment and the National Science and Technology Development Agency.
The three-year programme aims to train 100 IC design engineers a year, and the first class has been running for a year. In the second year, TESA will use a 10-million-baht budget and build 10 laboratories for nine educational institutes that have joined the programme. Four design firms will allow the students to work as interns.
"Qualified students will not only have a career path domestically but also be in high demand in Asean," he said. The target is for the number of IC design firms to reach 20.
To compete with Vietnam, Thailand needs about 1,000 skilled engineering students a year with collaboration from 50 IC design firms.
Manop Thamsirianunt, a Thai IC developer at Silicon Craft Technology, said demand for semiconductors in the automotive and medical industries should record growth of 9% and 9.5% per year between 2012-2017.
The automotive market will be driven by the number of vehicles produced in Brazil, Russia, India and China, and the semiconductor content per vehicle.
Sales of less expensive diagnostic and imaging equipment in China and other developing countries as well as an explosion of wireless mobile healthcare systems will fuel the medical electronics market.
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