How lean enterprises can pack a hefty punch

Markono Print Media employs some workers aged over 60. The company helps them adapt to new processes as it moves towards automation. Going forward, the labour required for manual processing of documents will be reduced, and manpower will be redeploye
Markono Print Media employs some workers aged over 60. The company helps them adapt to new processes as it moves towards automation. Going forward, the labour required for manual processing of documents will be reduced, and manpower will be redeployed to high-value-added activities.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

Roundtable to discuss ways of cutting reliance on manpower and boosting workforce quality

As the Singapore economy progresses to the next stage of its development, businesses need to reduce their reliance on manpower and enhance the Singaporean core and workforce quality.

While enterprises face various challenges doing so, thousands of companies have found successful solutions in recent years, thanks to the government's Lean Enterprise Development (LED) scheme.

Since the scheme started in October 2015, about 6,700 companies have been supported by it. Last year alone, about 4,000 companies benefited from the scheme, showing that a growing number of enterprises see its merits.

To highlight how enterprises are being helped through the forward-looking LED scheme, an industry roundtable is being held tomorrow at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.

A panel comprising businessmen and experts will discuss the challenges faced at the enterprise level and also talk about the solutions.

While the Ministry of Manpower promotes economic activity by supporting companies with their foreign manpower needs through its various schemes, in view of the overall need to cut reliance on manpower, the roundtable will look at how enterprises have been successful in doing so.

The idea is to showcase some of the successful enterprise-level achievements so that more and more small businesses will be encouraged to embark on this transformative journey.

The LED scheme provides enterprises with one-stop integrated government help and transitional manpower support to help build new capabilities, transform and thrive in the new manpower-lean landscape and, at the same time, offer better careers to Singaporeans.

Panellist Edwin Ng, managing director of Markono Print Media, will talk about challenges in his business, like having conventional racking to store raw materials, finished goods and documents - all of which rely heavily on labour.

Another challenge for him is the need for more storage space and higher throughput for storage and retrieval, which is imperative for Markono's integrated manufacturing and fulfilment services to grow.

The solution was an automated storage and retrieval system. Now, Markono's retrieval and storage operation is fully automated, and conveyor systems will be used to streamline the pallet processing area.

The new system reduces reliance on manual operations and processes, and the reliance on forklift drivers for storage and retrieving operations has been eliminated.

Going forward, the labour required for manual processing of documents will be reduced, and manpower will be redeployed to high-value-added activities like printing and customer service.

It is estimated the time savings on raw material handling will be cut to less than three minutes per pallet from six to 10 minutes now.

Another panellist is Mr Robert Leong, chairman of the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services.

In his line of business, routine administrative duties are manually handled by teaching staff. There is also manual tracking and submission of regular mandatory licensing data.

The answer to this is to go for smart information technology solutions. A fully integrated IT system takes care of the entire value chain - from teachers to parents to the regulatory authorities.

More than 100 childcare centres have already indicated their interest in adopting the solution.

The third panellist at the roundtable is Ms Teo Peiru, managing director of La Belle Couture.

As she is in the competitive bridal business, it is important to optimise customer experience to drive revenue.

Under the LED scheme, the suggested solution for her is to opt for enterprise resource planning.

With this, enterprises like Ms Teo's can digitise a customer's wedding journey, integrate and automate back-office functions, and embark on e-commerce to analyse inventory patterns.

The impact will be a 20 per cent reduction in the time spent per customer, capacity to take in 30 per cent more appointments on peak days, and a higher manpower retention rate with augmented reality devices as staff are given more opportunities to learn and grow.

At the roundtable, Ms Julia Ng, the LED task force co-chair, will provide an inside view on the whole-of-government efforts towards lean transformation of enterprises in the country.

Ms Lee Su Shyan, The Straits Times' business editor, will moderate the roundtable.

The LED scheme aims to help enterprises transform and grow into becoming more manpower lean, building a stronger Singaporean core and higher-quality workforce.

As Singapore's workforce growth slows, enterprises have to adapt to a new manpower landscape and be productivity-driven instead of input-driven.

The LED scheme provides enterprises with one-stop integrated government help and transitional manpower support to help build new capabilities, transform and thrive in the new manpower-lean landscape and, at the same time, offer better careers to Singaporeans.

Many ready-to-go solutions across a wide range of industries and business functions are featured at Tech Depot under the SME portal. By innovating and tapping technology, enterprises can enhance their productivity and transform their businesses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline 'How lean enterprises can pack a hefty punch'. Print Edition | Subscribe