Beehoon folding machine among success stories of ITE industry partnership programme

In a year, the team developed a beehoon folding machine which the company has been using ever since.
In a year, the team developed a beehoon folding machine which the company has been using ever since. PHOTO: ITE

SINGAPORE - As his beehoon business was expanding in 2013, People Bee Hoon Factory director Desmond Goh found he did not have enough workers to keep up with orders.

Though much of the manufacturing process was automated, one step still had to be done by hand: the folding and packaging of the vermicelli. Engineering firms that the 32-year-old approached told him it was too difficult to automate.

That's when Spring Singapore brought Goh and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) engineering team together. In a year, the team developed a beehoon folding machine which the company has been using ever since.

The machine was one of nine success stories showcased at ITE's fourth Industry Partnership Forum yesterday (Oct 4).

ITE said the event has been drawing more interest over the years, growing from 60 companies attending in 2014 to 140 companies this year.

Projects spanned a myriad of industries, solving issues from productivity to manpower. Some booths included a hands-free electrolarynx which helps patients who have damaged or missing voice boxes speak, no-sugar-added or low-sugar gelato and a smart store shelf that can track the popularity of a product.

Mr Goh said the machine made by ITE cut the number of workers for the beehoon folding process from 10 to just two. It allowed the other employees, mostly aged 50 and above, to take on more productive jobs instead.

"Imagine holding a 1 metre rod full of noodles, and repeating the same job for the whole day... it was really quite tiring for them." he said.

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs, was the guest-of-honour at the ITE forum. She said that Singapore's 2 per cent GDP growth in 2016 was due to a 1 per cent manpower and 1 per cent productivity growth, different from 2011 to 2014, which only saw growth due to manpower.

Thus, she called on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to leverage on technology and automation, urging them to participate in the Lean Enterprises Development Scheme, which helps companies tap various productivity schemes.

With the help of institutes like ITE, Mrs Teo said that companies can ultimately make jobs "easier, safer and smarter for workers of all ages".