More help for SMEs to automate operations and step up productivity

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say talking with guests at a conference where the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with Spring Singapore, on Oct 8, 2015.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say talking with guests at a conference where the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with Spring Singapore, on Oct 8, 2015. PHOTO: SIMTECH

SINGAPORE - Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector will get help automating processes, with plans to make a sophisticated digital system available to them in the next six months.

The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding with Spring Singapore to develop affordable "Manufacturing Control Tower" systems for smaller businesses to use.

The software platform links all the components in the production process online so their performance can be viewed at a glance and managed remotely.

SIMTech deputy executive director Lee Eng Wah told the media at a conference that funding wil be available to help companies take up the system. He hopes to reach 100 companies in the first six months in industries such as precision engineering, marine, aerospace and printing.

"It will reduce the reliance on manpower to track operations," he said, adding that having greater awareness of how all components in the production chain are working will help companies produce faster and reduce wastage.

Besides the software system, a new bite-sized version of a course to help SMEs operate more productively was also launched on Thursday.

The course under the national skills framework Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications comprise 10 half-day sessions and last up to 1.5 months, down from five months for the full programme. The programme includes classroom training and project mentoring and caters to smaller companies which cannot spare staff for long periods of training.

Wah Joo Seng International Trading, which distributes industrial hoses, was able to halve the two days it used to take for an assembly and testing cycle. The company's chairman Samuel Kuah attributed the improvements to changes made after attending the course - putting up visual boards to help staff keep track of the assembly process and what work has been finished by which worker.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said at the event at SIMTech that shifting to a more productive and manpower-lean model is important to prevent Singapore's economy from being impeded by slowing manpower growth.

"We must make sure the supply of solutions is not a bottleneck," he said, adding that there is already some improvement.

"I can see that the mindset of restructuring is getting more widespread," he said. "There is a faster pace of adoption of technology, streamlining of processes and embracing innovation."