- Covid-19 has turned into a global crisis, disrupting many economies and societies. Over 75% of global manufacturing operations have been affected by the virus.
In the shadows of Covid-19, there remain opportunities and hope. Covid-19 has accelerated digitalisation and Industry 4.0. Many companies are responding to the fast-evolving situation.
Manufacturers around the world adapted their capacities and capabilities to join the fight against Covid-19, such as:
a. Pharmaceutical and MedTech companies have stepped up the development and production of diagnostics, treatments and potential vaccines.
b. Automotive and electronics manufacturers responded to requests to produce ventilators.
c. Breweries and distilleries converted their production lines to meet the demand for hand sanitisers.
d. Companies in Singapore have also adapted well. For instance, Forefront Medical pivoted its manufacturing capability to produce swabs for Covid testing. While Racer Technology branched into the production of surgical masks and face shields.
Around the world, the lockdowns have disrupted supply chains and affected the availability of workers. Companies with global supply chains were most greatly impacted.
But I am glad that many of those based here in Singapore – such as Syngenta and Coca-Cola – are able to continue production by making adjustments to their operations, reskilling their workers and expanding their network of suppliers.
For example, in the manufacturing sector there will be an increased premium on resilience, as companies rethink their production and supply chains. There will be added impetus for the reshoring, regionalisation, and diversification of production bases and supply chains.
Southeast Asia and Singapore in particular are in a good position to be a part of this reconfiguration of supply chains in the coming years. The ten economies of Southeast Asia collectively represent the world’s fifth largest manufacturing economy, with USD600 billion dollars in value-add.
While Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are established manufacturing hubs for motor vehicles, electronics and chemicals. Vietnam and Indonesia are also fast emerging manufacturing hubs.
Singapore is a resilient base for advanced manufacturers in the region. As the nation-state emerge from the worst of the crisis, it is strengthening the foundations for manufacturing by increasing digital connectivity, strengthening maritime connectivity, and restoring air connectivity.
The future of manufacturing will also be determined by the convergence of digital and other advanced technologies. IoT, AI, robotics and additive manufacturing will redefine the nature of manufacturing. The pace of change will further accelerate, as firms seek to overcome a shortage of workers and to minimise contact between workers during this period.
Hence, Singapore is committed to develop and grow cutting-edge capabilities in advanced manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing is a core focus of Singapore’s R&D efforts, and will continue to feature prominently in our Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plans.
For Singapore to emerge stronger as an economy, it has commissioned industry-led Alliances for Action to prototype new ideas in growth areas, such as in robotics and the digitalisation of supply chains. A number of manufacturing companies are actively participating in these Alliances.
Successful prototypes can be scaled up to benefit the economy and manufacturing community. Singapore can also be a more digital and more resilient advanced manufacturing base in Asia, and for the world. I am glad many companies continue to keep faith with Singapore during the crisis.
Last month, Siemens announced the opening of its Advanced Manufacturing Transformation Centre to help companies transit into 3D printing and Industry 4.0. More recently, Hyundai Motor Group broke ground for its Innovation Centre, which will include an electric vehicle production facility.
Both facilities will be based in the Jurong Innovation District, which is shaping up as the one-stop advanced manufacturing hub in Singapore.
I encourage our friends from abroad to further explore opportunities here. In Singapore, advanced manufacturing continues to grow and create new jobs and training opportunities for our people during this period.
For example, companies such as NVIDIA, Omron and PBA Robotics have committed to train 500 mid-career jobseekers for roles such as automation engineers and machine learning specialists.
Given the speed of innovation and industry change, continuous upskilling and re-skilling will be a permanent feature in advanced manufacturing.
I am happy to announce that A*STAR and Nanyang Technological University will be establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy.
This new set-up will identify emerging skillsets and coordinate training and skills development for advanced manufacturing.
Contributing to regional growth
Providing a more resilient and digital base for advanced manufacturing is part of Singapore’s vision to be a Global-Asia node for technology, innovation and enterprise.
As part of this vision, Singapore can further contribute to industrial transformation and growth in the region in three ways.
The first area is in the setting of standards. As such, Singapore launched the Smart Industry Readiness Index, or SIRI, in 2017 to help manufacturers start, scale and sustain their manufacturing transformation journeys.
Last year, at ITAP 2019, the SIRI Assessor Programme was launched. Since then the first batch of 15 assessors have graduated and are looking to expand this programme.
Today, I am pleased to announce that EDB will be partnering the World Economic Forum, McKinsey, Siemens, and TUV SUD to further grow the pool of SIRI assessors.
Over the next 18 months, this partnership will train 100 assessors across 20 countries. These assessors aim to conduct SIRI assessments for 1,000 companies globally.
Through this collaboration, we hope to increase the sharing of insights and best practices, and create more opportunities for us to learn from one another.
The second area is in human capital development. The Asian Development Bank and Singapore Polytechnic will be launching the Global Technology Innovation Village.
This new collaboration will train regional government and business leaders in areas such as advanced manufacturing, 5G, and AI. It is a collective effort involving almost 20 industry players and government agencies.
The third area is to strengthen business linkages across borders. Industry 4.0 is important and there is a lot of potential for collaboration between Singapore and Germany, and between Singapore and EU members because we now have a Singapore-EU Free Trade Agreement.
In every crisis, there is opportunity. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers steam, we must make the most of the opportunities in this crisis, to ride the waves of growth in a post-Covid world.
Speech by Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, during the opening ceremony of industrial transformation Asia-Pacific 2020, on October 20, 2020 at Max Atria Gallery, Singapore Expo