Skills map for energy and chemicals workers

Accenture's Mr Senthil Ramani demonstrates how the smart worker of the future will operate a plant powered by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. For example, machines can be monitored using smart devices and sensors, as shown above. PHOTO: ACCENTURE

As manufacturing becomes more high-tech, workers in the energy, chemicals and utility industries will have to pick up new skills such as identifying data trends and applying cyber-security strategies.

In a report released today, consulting company Accenture has created a map of key digital skills that workers in those industries will need going forward - the first such skills map for the sector.

Traditional skillsets are no longer sufficient to support Industry 4.0 adoption, said Mr Senthil Ramani, Accenture's global digital lead for chemicals and natural resources, who co-authored the report. "But there hasn't been enough granularity in setting out emerging digital skills," he told The Straits Times.

The energy and chemicals industry, which employs about 25,000 people, is one of 23 growth industries which will have a detailed transformation map.

Together with utilities, these industries make up about 30 per cent of the manufacturing sector's output, which is why ensuring companies and workers can thrive in the digital future is key.

Seven in 10 manufacturers surveyed intend to increase the use of Industry 4.0 solutions by 2020, Accenture found.

Mr Ramani, who is also Accenture's Internet of Things Centre of Excellence managing director, said that besides technical skills in engineering and digital literacy, workers will also need soft skills, especially collaboration and making decisions.

"In the new digitalised workplace, knowledge is readily available and provided by machines, while people focus their efforts on 'judgment'," said the report, which was supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

EDB assistant managing director Lim Kok Kiang said the essential skills for advanced manufacturing in these industries had not been clearly spelt out before this report.

"Advanced manufacturing technologies can only come to life because of our workforce," he added.

"A skills map... will enable companies and individuals, with the support of the Government, to better prepare themselves to take on jobs in advanced manufacturing."

Accenture created the skills map after studying businesses, technology providers, institutes of higher learning and government agencies.

Examples of digital skills for operators include being able to manage and maintain machines which use advanced sensor, processing and communications technology.

For plant managers, complementing the use of data science with business insights will be a necessary skill.

Accenture will share its findings with SkillsFuture Singapore, Workforce Singapore, businesses, and trade associations and chambers.

Its recommendations to help workers skill up include having more programmes by educational institutions and training providers to train industrial engineers and technicians in digital skills, as well as developing a culture of digital adoption at all levels in companies.

Mr Simon Li, chairman of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation's energy and chemicals industry group, said most chemical companies have been digitising essential functions internally, and a key issue going forward will be to digitise connections between companies in a value chain.

One company that is keen to make its plant more connected is fuel and lubricant additives manufacturer Chevron Oronite.

It installed a wireless network in its Jurong Island plant last year and provided operators with radio frequency identification devices so they can be easily located in emergencies or if they request for help by activating the device's "panic button".

Workers also no longer have to manually sign in and out at the control room before moving to different areas of the plant.

The company is also using wireless sensors to monitor equipment so that workers can use data to anticipate problems and do preventive maintenance to avoid unplanned shutdowns, said operations general manager Tom Madilao.

"Understanding data and being able to make decisions based on data will be critical, so in the future, our operators will need to have more data analytics skills," he said.

Chevron Oronite relief shift superintendent Lim Bee Leng, 46, said technology is changing the way he works, such as by helping him track where high-risk work is taking place.

If operators can use tablets to monitor equipment during their routine work, the process will no longer require one worker to spend hours just checking on equipment, he added.

"Instead, we can monitor critical equipment in the control room. So the technology will help us in terms of safety and efficiency in how we do our work."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2017, with the headline Skills map for energy and chemicals workers. Subscribe