A proposal by Tanfeedh — the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification — mooting the establishment of a first-ever metal dies and moulding plant in the Sultanate has been endorsed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The initiative is proposed to be implemented alongside plans for the development of an equally unique Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at Suhar University. Both initiatives are key to jumpstarting the growth of high-value metals manufacturing activities in the Sultanate based on precision engineering, industrial innovation, prototyping, and so on. Described as “enabling initiatives”, these projects are critical to ensuring the sustainability of the industrial sector in Oman.
Such initiatives, the government affirmed in its 2018 State Budget document, include efforts to strengthen the infrastructure for innovation in the Sultanate, as well as to create a trade body for industrialists. “Furthermore, an agreement between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Suhar University was signed to establish a new centre for industrial research and a plant for the manufacture of dies and moulds,” the document said. Dies and moulds are critical to enhancing the capabilities of any nation’s manufacturing sector. Oman in particular has ambitions to spark the growth of a high-tech manufacturing industry, underpinned by capabilities in the design and manufacturing of plastic moulding, cutting and processing metal plates, and the other processes such as alloying, forging, and fabrication.
According to Tanfeedh, despite burgeoning domestic demand for moulds and metal cutting tools, Oman has yet to see an operational industrial unit specialising in the manufacture of dies and moulds. Neither are there any engineering design centres working on dies and moulds locally. “Imports (account) the increasing demand for these moulds and dies, with prices ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 depending on the size, complexity, precision, quality, and origin,” lamented Tanfeedh in a report. To address these shortcomings, Tanfeedh has proposed the establishment of a full-fledged plant for the manufacture of metal dies and moulds, in conjunction with an engineering design centre. This twin approach will open up new opportunities for the design and manufacture of “thousands of new products in the Sultanate under the ‘Designed and Made in Oman’ label”, according to Tanfeedh.
Besides offsetting imports, the joint initiative will help create around 100 jobs, and open up business opportunities related to the maintenance and rehabilitation of production equipment used in industries in the Sultanate. Additionally, potential exports of moulds and dies would also contribute to GDP growth, it noted. Implementation of the integrated venture is envisioned in two phases. Phase 1 will focus on the development of the manufacturing plant, which will be ramped up in Phase 1 with a capacity expansion as well as the inclusion of a design and engineering component. Given the project’s location in Suhar, it is proposed to be part of a larger technology park. Importantly, the new project is seen as part of a wider initiative to support the growth of ‘innovation infrastructure’ in the Sultanate, with Suhar set to play a pivotal initial role in this regard.
Agreements signed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), a world-renowned facility in Sheffield (UK), have paved the way for the establishment of a similar centre at Sohar University. Known in Oman as Intaj-Suhar, this first of its kind hub in the Gulf will serve as a role model for harnessing the power of engineering research to drive high-value manufacturing and improve productivity in the Sultanate. Intaj-Suhar will be developed in two phases. Phase 1 will focus on “advanced manufacturing” to support industrial innovations and “manufacturing tools” to support small and medium-sized enterprises and introducing new products. Phase 2, which will be funded with private sector investments, will drive the growth of a high-tech industrial hub in Suhar.