While semiconductor chips, drill bits for deep-sea exploration and sports cars might not seem to have a whole lot in common, they do. They would have all, at some point, passed through the hands of a precision engineer.
Through craftsmen and technologists, as well as mechanical, electrical and materials engineers, precision engineering forms the bedrock of Singapore's manufacturing sector.
The complex modules and components, as well as sophisticated machinery and systems that they make, affect the creation of everything from mechanical hearts to 3D printers.
"Precision engineering is the backbone for industries as diverse as aerospace, oil and gas, medical devices and electronics.
"It is what turns brilliant ideas into leading-edge technologies that we use in our everyday lives," says Mr Chang Chin Nam, executive director for precision engineering in the Economic Development Board (EDB).
Last year, the manufacturing sector contributed 18.6 per cent to Singapore's gross domestic product output. The precision engineering industry contributed 13 per cent of Singapore's total manufacturing value-add.
In the past decade, the sector's output rose by nearly four times, reaching $34 billion last year.
As it moves towards exporting higher-value engineering and manufacturing solutions, it has created an urgent need for talent.
To that end, the EDB has placed a strong emphasis on grooming talent through the Precision Engineering Vocational Continuing Education and Training initiative.
Next week, for instance, Singapore's first batch of master craftsmen will graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).
This $52 million initiative, launched in 2012, will train 2,800 skilled workers in the next decade.
The EDB also gives out National Precision Engineering Study Awards to deserving Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students, and has on-the-job training programmes in place to hone the skills of new craftsmen.
Mr Chang says: "We continue to see strong investor confidence and this has resulted in a demand for highly skilled craftsmen as the industry progresses into the design, development and manufacturing of technology-intensive components and complex equipment."
Technologists, who work with craftsmen and engineers to marry engineering theory with technical expertise to manufacture products, are equally important, and to that end, the National Precision Engineering Scholarship helps.
It is open to digital and precision engineering students at NYP and those doing technical engineering diplomas at the ITE College Central.
The Government has also encouraged the deepening of research and development capabilities, and the industry-wide adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing, lasers, optics and robotics.
Specialist engineers are being groomed, including at the Centre for Optical and Laser Engineering opened last year, and the Nanyang Technological University Additive Manufacturing Centre, which opens later this year.
Mr Chang says: "These activities will inject new know-how into our manufacturing sectors and keep Singapore companies at the forefront of new technology adoption to maintain our competitiveness."
This article was first published on May 12, 2014