Aim to lift productivity with new certification framework

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon fixing a piece of a puzzle comprising four areas that firms will be evaluated on, at the launch of the certification framework yesterday. With him at the Trade Association Hub in Jurong Eas
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon fixing a piece of a puzzle comprising four areas that firms will be evaluated on, at the launch of the certification framework yesterday. With him at the Trade Association Hub in Jurong East were Productivity Council centre of excellence work group leader Long Woon Fong (left) and Mr Terence Koh, Singapore Chemical Industry Council executive director.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Scheme enhances opportunities for firms that service energy and chemical plants

Companies in the process construction and maintenance industry that provide services to energy and chemicals plants will be able to attain recognition if they meet certain productivity benchmarks.

A new certification framework will evaluate companies in four areas: improvements in planning and execution via project management tools; technology adoption; staff development; and how well they collect data that can be analysed.

Certified companies benefit as plant owners would be more likely to engage them for contracts, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon in launching the framework yesterday.

He added that the initiative - which the Economic Development Board said is the first in the world for the energy and chemicals industry - can be a strong value proposition for Singapore if implemented well.

"While we may have to face carbon constraints, we may have to face land constraints, let us not make people, the only resource we have, become a constraint as well," Dr Koh told around 100 people at an industry seminar at the Trade Association Hub in Jurong East.

"We can punch above our weight and break that constraint of human numbers by making sure that each and every one increases his productivity."

Dr Koh, who is also deputy secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress, also encouraged companies to tap union networks to help workers be more willing and able to adopt technology.

There are about 400 process construction and maintenance companies here, servicing more than 100 international energy and chemical manufacturers on Jurong Island that have cumulatively invested $50 billion or so here.

Mr Koh Yak Boo, chairman of the Productivity Council for the process construction and maintenance industry and energy and chemicals industry, said better productivity can shorten maintenance downtime for plant owners and help contractors generate more revenue.

He said the six biggest process construction and maintenance companies, which employ more than half of the industry's workers, will be certified by next year. The hope is that they will then encourage their subcontractors to implement the framework, which is voluntary.

"We think business owners will see the intrinsic value of the framework. It is not just a yardstick; it also tells you the specific actions you need to take to achieve the next quantum improvement in productivity," said Mr Koh, who is also ExxonMobil's Singapore site turnaround manager.

Companies will be trained to evaluate their own work processes and data in order to see which of the five tiers they fall into. The standards in the highest tier, platinum, are based on world best practices, while those in the lowest - merit - are based on current practices here.

There should eventually be a body that can issue certificates, said Mr Koh.

Mr Roger Chia, chairman and managing director of Rotary Engineering - one of the six big firms piloting the framework - said he is working on optimising how teams of workers are organised and on digitalising work records so that productivity can be better monitored and improved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2019, with the headline 'Aim to lift productivity with new certification framework'. Print Edition | Subscribe