Automation helps firm cope with labour crunch

An employee with a machine that makes mould inserts at Koei Tool, whose automation of production processes has lifted productivity.
An employee with a machine that makes mould inserts at Koei Tool, whose automation of production processes has lifted productivity.PHOTO: KOEI TOOL

Manufacturer Koei Tool restructured its production process last year, so it could continue making plastic injection moulds despite the many challenges such as staff shortages that it later faced in the pandemic.

The company, established here in 1989, automated machines so that they can now run unmanned.

Previously, staff had to stand by to load and unload materials and manually change electrodes on the equipment.

The automation of these processes has also lifted productivity.

A CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine that manufactures electrodes, for example, has increased the capacity of the process from around 15 per cent to 20 per cent, to about 80 per cent to 90 per cent.

A semi-automated inspection station also allows components to be reviewed while automatically generating the inspection programme and updating checked data for follow-up processes. This ensures maximum accuracy and eliminates human error.

Koei Tool Singapore director Ng Poh Leong said: "Due to restrictions imposed during the pandemic, the company was not able to resume operations fully and workers were not able to come back from overseas.

"We were faced with interrupted work schedules and limited resources from suppliers.

"(But) the system allowed us to carry on with production with minimum disruptions, so we could deliver products on time."

Mr Ng added that the improvements "have strengthened our goals to continue with more of these transformations. We believe that embarking on the (digital) journey in this direction will enable us to stay competitive with minimum disruption to our customers".

Sue-Ann Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Automation helps firm cope with labour crunch'. Print Edition | Subscribe