SPEECH BY MR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY AT THE SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL ROBO EXPO ON 1 NOVEMBER 2018 AT SANDS EXPO & CONVENTION CENTRE
Mr Terence Teo, President of the Singapore Industrial Automation Association (SIAA)
Mr Leck Chet Lam, Managing Director of Experia Events Pte Ltd
Dr Yau Wei Yun, Conference Chairman
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you today at the Singapore International Robo Expo (SIRE) 2018.
I was invited to SIRE 2017 and it is heartening to see that the size of the event and number of companies participating has grown since. This reflects the interest and momentum that has built up in the robotics sphere.
The theme for SIRE 2018, “Riding Opportunities in Exponential Change” is a timely reminder to us all. In line with this theme, I would like to share three key messages with you today.
Robotics as an enabler for industry transformation
First, we must all see robotics as an enabler for industry transformation. Technological advances such as robotics will help future-proof the competitiveness of our economic sectors, and address our imperatives as an ageing population. In 2016, we launched the National Robotics Programme (NRP) to coordinate end-to-end development, test-bedding and deployment of robotics and automation solutions. We are making good progress and Singapore today has a growing base of robotic companies, research institutes, commercial system integrators and training providers to design, develop and enable adoption of robotics solutions to support our industry transformation.
One example is in the manufacturing sector. Last year, we saw a record number of over 4,400 new industrial robots installed in Singapore, an increase of 72% since 2016. We also saw a record number of more than 300 SMEs across a wide range of manufacturing sectors adopting robotics and automation as part of their transformation journeys, with promising results.
An example is Feinmetall, a company that specialises in the design, manufacturing, testing and servicing of wafer probe cards for the electronics industries. Feinmetall introduced a digital factory setup and incorporated various technologies from SIMTech and A*STAR to automate critical production processes. This allowed the company to have better visibility of the whole production process and enabled it to reduce processing time by 25%.
Another company, Certact Engineering, which distributes highly specialised manufacturing products, implemented an automated industrial tool vending system and a workflow management system. This increased overall workflow efficiency by up to 15% and reduced inventory consumption by up to 20%. I am encouraged by these efforts and am confident that more companies will continue to adopt and integrate advanced manufacturing technologies to transform their manufacturing operations and stay ahead of the curve.
BCA Grant Call
Besides manufacturing, the Built Environment is another important sector that can capitalise on robotics technologies. I am proud to announce that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has developed the Built Environment Robotics Research and Development (R&D) Programme that focuses on three key areas of research, development and deployment, namely in (i) automated construction manufacturing facilities, (ii) on-site assembly and (iii) smart and sustainable assets which include civil engineering works and facilities management. The programme’s first Open Grant Call will be launched today and we hope it will generate innovations, create new opportunities for collaboration, encourage investments in research and innovation, and contribute towards the transformation of the Built Environment sector.
Workers need to re-skill and upskill to stay relevant
As businesses adopt new technologies and transform, equipping the workers with the right skillsets is critical. All stakeholders – companies, unions, and the Government – have a role to play.
First, companies. I shared the example of Feinmetall earlier. Recognising that workers’ training does contribute to the company’s success, Feinmetall has been working with the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Employment and Employability Institute, or in short, e2i, to upskill their workers. Through the NTUC U Leap Enterprise initiative, Feinmetall workers now have access to customised bite-sized learning modules to upgrade and sharpen their skills. I am encouraged by Feinmetall’s efforts and hope that more companies will be able to promote this culture of lifelong learning and enable our workers to constantly upskill and stay relevant.
NTUC’s Training Council
The unions will also do their part. NTUC has also set up a Training Council to promote continual training to support the various industry transformation efforts. The Training Council has been working closely with the unions, institutes of higher learning and companies to curate, consolidate and coordinate the implementation of training efforts and job placements initiatives for workers across the 6 clusters and 23 industries, supported by the various Industry Transformation Maps.
SSG’s Advanced Manufacturing Continuing Education and Training Strategy
The Government will also do its part. In consultation with agencies, industry partners, unions, and education and training providers, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has developed the Advanced Manufacturing (AM) Continuing Education and Training (CET) strategy. The AM CET strategy comprises key initiatives that cover talent attraction, retention and skills development to help develop a skilled and advanced manufacturing ready workforce. We hope that through these initiatives, workers can further skills development and companies can better redesign and update their processes for automation and digitalisation.
TACs play an important role in promoting technology adoption
Finally, I would like to emphasise the importance of the role that trade associations and chambers (TACs), like the Singapore Industrial Automation Association (SIAA), play in promoting technology adoption. TACs understand the needs of their industries and are well-placed to advise and encourage firms to capitalise on new technologies and upgrade their capabilities. It is therefore heartening to see SIAA being very proactive in reaching out and contributing to the local robotics ecosystem.
Memorandum of Understanding
Today, I am proud to announce that SIAA will be signing two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) at SIRE 2018. The first MOU is with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), in the provision of internship places for ITE students and development of certificates of competency in the areas of Robotics, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Automation Engineering and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology. The second MOU is with the Korea Association of Robot Industry (KAR), in exploring opportunities for collaborations between companies from both countries and in supporting the formation of a regional robotics ecosystem.
In closing, let me congratulate SIAA, Experia Events and your partners for the successful organisation of SIRE 2018. I am confident that if we continue to work closely together, we will be able to accelerate the pace of industry transformation and capitalise on the growth opportunities and more importantly, continue to deliver good jobs for our workers. I now declare the Singapore International Robo Expo 2018, open! And I wish you all a productive time ahead at SIRE 2018.