Budget to focus on helping companies embrace tech, train workers to lift productivity: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) and FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng (right) speaking to Autostore picker Norliati binte Othman (in blue) at the FairPrice Hub in Benoi.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) and FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng (right) speaking to Autostore picker Norliati binte Othman (in blue) at the FairPrice Hub in Benoi.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The Budget will focus on how companies can increase productivity and stay competitive, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This will involve, in part, an emphasis on improving capabilities in the workplace and getting firms to embrace technology.

Mr Heng, who was speaking during a tour of the FairPrice distribution centre at Benoi on Thursday (Feb 14), noted: "I hope to see (companies) putting big emphasis on training and upgrading our workers.

"As we redesign jobs, we will need to help workers learn new skills, and I think in that way, companies can be more competitive and, at the same time, workers can be more productive and enjoy better jobs and better pay."

Mr Heng also encouraged businesses and workers to embrace technology: "Our ability to master the new technology will be key to a better life for the future."

He cited the distribution centre as an example of how enterprises can use technology to lift productivity.

"FairPrice has worked together with the workers to retrain them. Many of them told me they started when FairPrice had manual processes but they were able to pick up new skills along the way," Mr Heng said.

"All enterprises will need to put this as a major priority so they can make best use of new technologies and our companies can... continue to raise productivity and create a better life for our workers."

The FairPrice distribution centre is the first in the region to integrate automated storage and caddy pick systems in its operations.

Pallets of goods can be automatically transported in and out of a storage rack comprising 19 levels. The system can receive up to 380 pallets an hour instead of the usual 120 in a conventional warehouse.

 
 
 
 

This is integrated with a system where autonomous machines sort pallets according to colour, allowing orders to be fulfilled without needing staff to operate forklifts or handheld equipment.

Pallets and rollcages carrying goods are also tracked using radio frequency identification technology so the right orders are delivered to stores at the right time.

There is an AutoStore system for e-commerce orders that functions as a huge vending machine to automatically store and dispense thousands of products to the picking bay.

Mr Heng added that the Budget will also contain key measures on social policy, the Merdeka Generation Package and the bicentennial.

"It is a major event and I hope we reflect on the past so that we can plan for a better future," he noted.