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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Omani Industry Day celebrations to focus on AI, factory automation

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MUSCAT: The Sultanate of Oman, represented by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP), marked Omani Industry Day on February 9 this year on the theme of "Factory Automation and Artificial Intelligence." This year's theme underscores His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik's emphasis on making Oman a leading investment destination as part of the transition towards a sustainable economy.


This celebration highlights the importance of the industrial sector as a key pillar for economic diversification and the achievement of Oman Vision 2040 objectives. In the context of the global shift towards Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, rapid adoption of these technologies by the industrial sector is necessary to maintain competitiveness, enhance production efficiency, and foster innovation.


The MoCIIP emphasizes that embracing artificial intelligence technologies and factory automation is vital to enhance companies' competitiveness in the industrial sector, improve planning and production processes, increase productivity, enhance equipment maintenance, and improve customer experience.


On Wednesday, February 14, the MoCIIP will host a celebration in Suhar, Al Batinah North. The event will witness the signing of agreements and memoranda of understanding, as well as the launch of various initiatives, including those related to this year's Industry Day theme. These agreements and memoranda are expected to enhance production efficiency, open new avenues for innovation, diversify products, and improve their quality. Additionally, modern industrial technologies will play a significant role in improving supply chain efficiency, reducing waste, and enhancing the environmental and economic sustainability of various Omani factories.


Manufacturing Industries


Statistics from the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI) indicate that the contribution of the manufacturing industries continues to actively contribute to the national economy. Its contribution to the gross domestic product reached 9.3% by the end of September 2023, equivalent to RO 2.454 billion at constant prices. The number of Omani workers in the sector, with social security coverage, exceeded 33,000 workers, while foreign direct investment in the industrial sector exceeded RO 1.4 billion. Additionally, Omani non-oil commodity exports amounted to RO 6.767 billion by the end of last November.


Dr Saleh bin Said Masan, the Under-Secretary of MoCIIP, stated that the ministry will undertake the implementation of a series of initiatives, including the automation of Omani factories, adoption of artificial intelligence technologies, and a shift towards a circular economy. He indicated that an announcement will be made during this year's Industry Day event regarding some of these groundbreaking projects aimed at enhancing the sector's productivity and reducing operational costs through the adoption of practical programs for factory automation and operational efficiency improvement.


He further added that the government, recognizing the importance of the industrial sector and its desire to make the Sultanate of Oman a leading investment destination, has chosen the theme "Factory Automation and Artificial Intelligence" to celebrate Omani Industry Day this year, with the aim of continuing the growth trajectory towards broader horizons and sustainable development. He emphasized the necessity for the Omani industrial sector to adopt modern technologies to enhance its efficiency, diversify its products, improve their quality, and enhance environmental and economic sustainability, in line with the global acceleration towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Sector Performance


Mazin al Siyabi, Assistant Director-General for Industry at the MoCIIP, stated: "In light of the global shift towards Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, we must be at the forefront of adopting these technologies to ensure the continuity of success in our industrial sector." He added, "We will work closely with industrial sector establishments to achieve set goals and elevate the performance of the Omani industry to global standards."


Al Siyabi further added, "The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion constantly seeks to develop the industrial sector and increase its contribution to the domestic product through updating laws, providing facilities, and exemptions for Omani factories." He noted that Omani Industry Day embodies the partnership between the public and private sectors by discussing the challenges facing industrial establishments, finding solutions, and focusing more on topics relevant to the industrial sector's interests.


The Assistant General Manager for Industry affirmed that the manufacturing sector has become a key driver of the Omani economy since the beginning of the third millennium, contributing to reducing the country's reliance on crude oil. Given the importance of the manufacturing sector in achieving economic diversification, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion is working to enhance the sector's role through a range of initiatives and programs aimed at increasing its contribution to Oman's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Among these initiatives is the Value-Added Program, which aims to localize several industries, prioritize government procurement, expand and increase the productivity of existing factories, as well as establish new industries to enhance local value added.


On his part, Eng Mohammed al Mahrouqi, Director of the Industrial Operations Department at the MoCIIP, stated: "The efforts of the ministry aim to enhance the capacity of industrial companies to innovate in their operations and boost productivity through the use of modern technologies. These initiatives will assist innovative industrial projects in developing the national industry and enhancing its position in the international market through various government initiatives that will be announced in the near future."


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Automation technologies


Sultan al Khadouri, Head of the ICV Office at the MoCIIP, affirmed that factory automation technologies are fundamental for enhancing value addition in the industrial sector. Adopting these technologies enhances production efficiency, fosters innovation, and significantly contributes to enhancing competitiveness and stimulating the growth of the local industry.


Al Khadouri stated, "The ministry is diligently working to support and encourage companies to utilize these technologies to enhance sustainability and diversity in the sector. Moreover, the adoption of a national policy for local content contributes to strengthening the transformative industries sector in the Sultanate of Oman, playing a prominent role in achieving sustainable development and boosting the national economy." He pointed out that the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion is working on developing the industrial sector by leveraging national industrial capabilities as a key driver for the desired economic diversification outlined in Oman Vision 2040.


Increasing manufacturing capacity:


The Head of the ICV Office at the MoCIIP, has adopted programs to enhance value addition to increase the contribution of the national workforce in the industrial sector. This includes linking various sectors and factories and empowering small and medium-sized enterprises by boosting goods production and providing locally offered services. Additionally, it aims to enhance Oman's manufacturing capacity, achieve integration between industries, and develop the skills and capabilities of the national workforce through training and qualification programs. Some services provided by the ministry are conditioned upon achieving a certain percentage of local content.


Al Khadouri emphasized that the ministry, in collaboration with its partners, is striving to identify suitable potentials for implementing value-added programs, along with enhancing national exports, attracting direct local and foreign investments, localizing supply chains, and improving the business environment. He noted that programs aimed at enhancing value addition and local content are among the primary methods employed in national economic development to maximize the benefit from financial flows in the sector. Currently, the ministry is implementing a special program to enhance and empower value addition in the industrial sector through industrial networking models with the aim of localizing intermediate product manufacturing and leveraging local production input.


4th Industrial Revolution


Engineer Idris al Sinan, Head of the Knowledge-Based Industries Department at the MoCIIP, pointed out that the ministry seeks to enhance Omani industries by enabling them towards applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution through improving their production processes and adopting advanced technology. The world is undergoing rapid scientific and technological changes, leading to the evolution of the concept of production and manufacturing factors. This is the goal of the Industrial Strategy 2040, aiming to "achieve the diversification of the manufacturing industry in the Sultanate of Oman and transform it into technology and knowledge-based activities."


Today, factories need to increase production in less time while minimizing product costs to the lowest possible. To ensure this, there is a need to reduce the reliance on human labor and also decrease instances of failure and accidents. This is why industrial automation systems, which rely on the use of technology and machines to perform tasks previously done manually by human workers, involve integrating various technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots, sensors, and software systems in manufacturing processes.


Eng. al Sinan stated: "The primary goal of industrial automation is to improve productivity, efficiency, innovation, competitiveness, create new jobs, and enhance environmental sustainability. Through the application of automation to the factory, the factory can be monitored from a single center and controlled from anywhere. It is also possible to monitor symmetrical values such as temperature, pressure, and pH at the same time. Additionally, the factory can be monitored and viewed from anywhere in the world online."


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