New initiatives on the cards to nudge firms towards innovation

Mr Lim (centre) being shown a workflow management platform for the F&B sector at the Singapore Productivity Conference and Exhibition yesterday. The Manpower Minister said that Singapore offers a competitive proposition now, with "products and servic
Mr Lim (centre) being shown a workflow management platform for the F&B sector at the Singapore Productivity Conference and Exhibition yesterday. The Manpower Minister said that Singapore offers a competitive proposition now, with "products and services cheaper than those who are better than us or better than those who are cheaper than us".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The uncertain economy has prompted some companies to innovate, but others remain sluggish in implementing change and need a helping hand, according to the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).

The SBF said yesterday it is launching new initiatives to get reluctant companies to attempt a new approach.

Mr Koh Tat Liang, assistant executive director of SBF's SME Committee Secretariat, said yesterday: "There are some companies which are really responding to innovation and there are some companies just looking at staying afloat. That's why we have to have a call for action."

One incentive might be the SBF's second version of the Holistic Industry Productivity Scorecard, a free online tool for companies to measure their productivity against industry peers'.

The scorecard was launched last November and updated this year with new features such as allowing companies to use a calculator to compute their productivity anonymously. Mr Koh said the anonymous feature is a result of feedback from firms that wanted "a sense of comfort" when computing their financial numbers.

He said only 110 companies have used the calculator so far, but he hoped more would make use of the data on productivity as a wake-up call to identify issues.

Mr Koh was speaking at the two-day Singapore Productivity Conference and Exhibition organised by the SBF.

The event included the launch of a DBS starter package aimed at attracting food and beverage (F&B) entrepreneurs. The package includes banking and financing services such as setting up accounts with no minimum balance required.

It also offers customers technology solutions through partnerships with start-ups.

One of these start-ups is Foodrazor, which offers restaurants a purchasing and inventory management ordering system. Instead of manually ordering ingredients from suppliers and keeping track of physical receipts for accounting purposes, restaurants can use the system to place orders and track costs.

Foodrazor founder Niles Toh said F&B businesses have been receptive to the solution, which has a monthly subscription fee of $199.

The year-old company has signed up more than 100 customers in the past six months.

Productivity gains include being able to free staff from ordering supplies to performing other roles, as well as being able to track costs more effectively, said Mr Toh.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told the conference that Singapore offers a competitive proposition now as it "offers products and services cheaper than those who are better than us or better than those who are cheaper than us."

But he noted that Singapore's cheaper competitors are now hiring staff with better educational qualifications, while smarter rivals are cutting costs through more efficient technology.

If productivity gains continue to lag behind wage growth, Singapore's competitiveness will be eroded, he said.

Mr Lim also said that there is structural transition in the local workforce.

While about 190,000 Singaporeans left the workforce last year and were replaced by about the same number, those entering employment are looking for different jobs from those vacated, he said.

This is because the newer entrants have better education and skills.

"What this means is that economic transformation is important, not just because they will bring about higher productivity for the economy... but because they will bring about better jobs and better wages," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'New initiatives on the cards to nudge firms towards innovation'. Print Edition | Subscribe