More manufacturing firms get help in adopting Industry 4.0 tech, redesigning jobs

Mr Cai Ming. production manager of SouperFoods using his tablet to monitor the production. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - An initiative launched last year to help companies adopt industry 4.0 solutions while upskilling workers has already benefited 90 firms.

About 280 roles at these companies, including those in traditional manufacturing such as supervisors, operations managers and engineers, have been identified for job redesign.

This means that more than 1,500 workers could see their roles change so they can take on higher-value tasks, noted Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, who gave an update on the programme - called the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative - on Wednesday (July 14).

The initiative, which was started in March last year by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Business Federation, is expected to assist another 210 manufacturing firms, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, by 2022.

It helps firms identify gaps in their processes and then introduces an eight-week programme to guide companies in tackling issues like labour productivity and planning efficiency by experts from McKinsey & Company and EY.

They can also trial industry 4.0 solutions and receive a phased roadmap to support their workforce in the transformation.

The 90 firms identified processes where they can potentially achieve up to $60 million in cost savings and increased revenue.

One of these is SouperFoods, which used the programme to help reduce manpower demands and increase the use of machines and technology.

Staff were also encouraged to embrace digital tools that they were not well versed in initially, said managing director Andrew Chan.

Dr Tan noted at a visit to SouperFoods, which runs a chain of Soup Spoon outlets: "The manufacturing sector is... a key driver of our economic growth and it provides good jobs for Singaporeans."

Last year, the sector contributed to about 20 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and employed about 472,000 workers.

The sector is also guided by government roadmaps that lay out strategies so Singapore can achieve its goal of being a global innovation and talent hub for advanced manufacturing, he said.

"At the core of these initiatives is the successful adoption of the industry 4.0 technologies as well as developing a higher-skilled and more productive local workforce."

WSG has also introduced a Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Industry 4.0 professionals, executives and associates.

Dr Tan said: "The programme aims to provide new hires, together with existing staff, with the knowledge and skill sets required in industry 4.0.

"This will allow them to either make a career switch into the manufacturing industry or be reskilled to take on higher-value jobs within existing companies. Over 200 trainees are expected to benefit from this PCP by 2023."

WSG chief executive Tan Choon Shian added: "The shift towards industry 4.0 means manufacturers must adopt a new way of working, automating processes and making data-driven conclusions to optimise and maximise output and production.

"Along with digital transformation, jobs need to be redesigned with the intent to build up human capital capability to support the change."

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