Local business federation helps companies to trim the fat

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck speaking at a forum organised by the Workforce Advancement Federation.
Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck speaking at a forum organised by the Workforce Advancement Federation. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A local business federation has started a series of forums for firms on how to use a Government scheme to trim excess manpower and cut down on foreign hiring.

The Workforce Advancement Federation (WAF) yesterday held the first in a triannual series of forums for more than 200 business owners on how to take advantage of the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) scheme.

Organised together with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), it aimed to bring small and medium enterprises (SMEs) together to brainstorm the adoption of LED projects that would benefit their sectors.

The LED scheme was announced by the Manpower Ministry last October to help companies that are trying to restructure. Those who apply might be allowed some temporary flexibility in their foreign worker quota to adapt their processes for the long run.

The WAF is one of nine LED 'multipliers', who are trade associations, chambers and industry partners appointed last month by the Government to encourage companies in their fold to make the push for leaner processes.

Speaking at the forum, guest-of-honour Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck urged companies to move swiftly to take advantage of the LED scheme. Citing slowing GDP growth and manpower constraints within the country, he said: "We need companies to strengthen themselves, not just within Singapore but globally as well, because foreign companies are here too."

Forum speaker Koh Seng Choon, the founder and executive director of social enterprise Project Dignity, suggested that employers could strengthen their companies' local cores by hiring inclusively. Project Dignity helps to train and find jobs for the disabled and disadvantaged, including people with autism, hearing disabilities, or missing limbs.

Mr Filippo Fanin, chief executive of Bavarian restaurant chain Brotzeit, said he attended the forum to find out more about how he could tap the LED scheme.

He has ideas such as tapping on central kitchen structures, automating some ordering processes, and hiring part-timers to come in to handle peak service periods. "The LED forces us to have a plan, but gives us enough to time to implement it," he said.

The WAF has already submitted a proposal from 13 interior design companies, who plan to develop 3D and virtual reality technologies which will save workers time and cut down labour requirements.

WAF chairman Chan Chong Beng said: "The changing landscape will greatly impact how SMEs can operate. Your employees are your assets and key drivers of business sustainability. By involving them in your transformation journey, both employers and employees can then see the real return of investment."

The next LED forums will be held in May and November.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg