Conversation Series Topic: The Role of Tech in the Future of the Manufacturing Sector
Ms Serene Sia, Councillor, SGTech,
Leaders of Trade Association and Chambers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you here today at SGTech’s CXO in Conversation Series.
2. The topic of today’s conversation is very important. The government first outlined our strategic vision for the manufacturing sector to embrace Industry 4.0 in the Committee on Future Economy report in 2017. We knew that such a transition was critical in future-proofing Singapore’s manufacturing sector, and our relevance to the global economy.
3. Covid-19 came as an unexpectedly early litmus test of our strategy. Businesses had to intensify the ongoing transition to Industry 4.0, adapt to uncertainty, and adopt new technologies to overcome operational constraints created by the pandemic. While we are not out of the woods yet, and there are now new challenges like supply chain disruptions to deal with, I am glad to see that the manufacturing sector remained resilient throughout the pandemic and delivered stellar growth last year. In fact, the manufacturing sector registered the strongest growth among all sectors last year, and continues to deliver strong growth even this year.
TECHNOLOGY SUPPORTED BUSINESS RECOVERY AND GROWTH
4. This is due in larger part to the tremendous efforts made by manufacturers who used the disruption created by Covid-19 as an opportunity to question their assumptions, improve their operations, and strengthen their foundations. Some of the initiatives that manufacturers embarked on include cross-training existing workers to nimbly transit between different roles, doubling down on the digitalisation of business operations from warehousing to invoicing, and automating production lines to cope with fluctuations in demand during the pandemic.
5. SGTech has been on the frontlines supporting this transition. Last October, SGTech, with support from Facebook and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), launched the “Stronger Together, Aiding Recovery” (STAR) fund to help businesses leverage technology to transform and prepare for the post-Covid economy. Recognising the importance and timeliness of such initiatives, ESG committed to matching 50% of the funds raised by SGTech. The fund has supported 48 projects thus far, helping the wider business community digitalise, while enabling ICT players acquire new SME customers. I am happy to share that application to the STAR fund is still open and I urge companies to tap on this opportunity to further their digitalisation journey.
6. While COVID-19 can be disruptive to businesses trying to start or scale their Industry 4.0 transformation journey, we hope that the manufacturing sector will stay the course and relentlessly pursue Industry 4.0 tools and initiatives. I am happy to note that SGTech is actively collaborating with industry trade associations under the Manufacturing Alliance Transformation Office (MATO), to encourage a culture of peer learning amongst manufacturers and help companies along their transformation journey. Other initiatives include the upcoming Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP) 2021 taking place next month, which will feature over 100 Industry 4.0 solutions providers from over 50 countries. ITAP’s signature peer-targeted activities such as the Industry 4.0 Experiential Zone, digital sandboxes and one-on-one business matching, will offer many opportunities for participants to connect, discover and showcase innovative and practical solutions.
ENABLING OUR MANUFACTURING 2030 VISION
7. Initiatives like these brings us one step closer to our vision for Singapore to become a global business, innovation, and talent hub for advanced manufacturing. Our Manufacturing 2030 ambition is for Singapore to accelerate towards high-value manufacturing in a world where competition is no longer based purely on cost, but also on important intangibles such as the ability to protect intellectual property, skills of the workforce, and the stability and reliability of the business environment.
SUPPORTING TRANSITION THROUGH A HOLISTIC PIPELINE OF INITIATIVES
8. As we move towards a post-Covid future, Singapore remains committed to supporting advanced manufacturing through a pipeline of initiatives; be it physical infrastructure, talent, or financial support.
9. For example, we are building Jurong Innovation District as Asia’s leading node for advanced manufacturing, and as a one-stop hub where manufacturers can congregate to ideate, innovate, and create. By co-locating different parts of the manufacturing process within the same innovation space, JID will enable the speedy development as well as deployment of new technologies. This will help our companies shorten the time-to-market of their products.
10. For our Manufacturing 2030 vision to succeed, we also need to ensure that we have a skilled, future-ready workforce to fill the good jobs created in this industry. Here, the government has supported the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy (AMTA), an industry-led national programme to strengthen the competitiveness of Singapore’s manufacturing workforce. AMTA seeks to facilitate the constant up-skilling and re-skilling of our workforce, equipping them with the ability to make the most out of Industry 4.0.
11. Last but definitely not least, is our financial commitment to facilitating this transition to Industry 4.0. We have a range of incentives to encourage our companies to make this transition. The government has also set aside S$25 billion for the RIE2025 Plan over the next five years across sectors including manufacturing, trade and connectivity. Our hope is that these investments will advance the development and translation of frontier technologies for manufacturing such as artificial intelligence and high-performance computing. More importantly, staying committed to R&D and innovation will allow us to establish niches in the manufacturing value chain, strengthen Singapore’s competitiveness and capture new growth opportunities.
12. I would like to thank businesses for your commitment to embracing Industry 4.0 despite the pandemic. I would also like to reaffirm the support that the government has for this endeavour. We are on the right track, and but we have not arrived at our destination yet. Let us push ahead and realise our vision together.
13. I wish everyone a fruitful discussion ahead. Thank you.