New digitalisation plan for precision engineering firms

Scheme for employees to pick up relevant skills as their companies transform in stages

A new plan that helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in precision engineering figure out what digital solutions could help them at different points of their business growth was launched yesterday.

Called the Precision Engineering Industry Digital Plan, it also offers these companies a road map of the training programmes available to help their employees pick up relevant skills as the companies digitalise in stages.

These efforts are expected to benefit about 2,700 businesses and 101,000 employees in the industry, which plays a key role in manufacturing processes by supplying very accurately designed and developed machines, parts and components.

The plan was announced by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, on the second day of the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (Itap) 2021 event held at the Singapore Expo.

He said that despite the supply chain challenges and disruption to manufacturing activities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the precision engineering industry has grown and remains important to the country, contributing about $40 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product.

"But as the industry strives to maintain its global competitiveness, it's very important that we continue to adopt digitalisation and different platforms," said Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

Recognising that companies may not be familiar or comfortable with technology or digitalisation, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority developed the Precision Engineering Industry Digital Plan as part of the Government's SMEs Go Digital initiative.

The plan provides a step-by-step guide to help SMEs find digital solutions based on their stage of growth, so that the process is broken up into more bite-size chunks and is less intimidating.

Under the industry digital plan, companies can also use an online checklist to assess how digitally ready they are and identify gaps in their digital capabilities.

To help companies with adopting digital solutions, SMEs can consider pre-approved solutions under the digital plan listed at the GoBusiness Gov Assist website.

The pre-approved solutions are eligible for the Government's Productivity Solutions Grant, which provides co-funding of up to 80 per cent until March 31 next year.

For local precision engineering firm Onn Wah Tech, digitalisation and automation over the years have helped it do more with the same staff strength of around 50.

Chief strategy officer Mok Hon Yong said the company's revenue per employee rose to $300,000 this year from $100,000 in 2014 due to efforts to go digital.

For instance, the firm realised there were bottlenecks caused by labour-intensive and time-consuming processes when assembling components.

Previously, employees had to insert small pins into plates that Onn Wah Tech supplies to customers to make semiconductor chips. Now, the process is done by a pin-insertion machine.

Onn Wah Tech also set up a "black box" system that can keep track of logs of when the machines are being used and by whom. Previously, such data was manually recorded and manual checks had to be done by employees.

With the black box, this monitoring can be done remotely, which is useful for those working from home. "We realised the importance of this during the pandemic, especially last year, when we were restricted on the number of employees who could report to work," said Dr Mok.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline 'New digitalisation plan for precision engineering firms'. Subscribe