LEADING INDUSTRY TRANSFORMATION
The automotive industry is an example of how digitalisation is swiftly transforming the once familiar. Mr Dan Chia, an industry veteran of 17 years and now senior lecturer at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)’s infocomm technology cluster, highlighted how the rise of the connected car and autonomous driving has seen tech players come into direct competition with “traditional automotive players”.
Even the Ministry of Transport and Land Transport Authority has come on board, launching various initiatives aimed to test and deploy autonomous vehicles in Singapore, he said. “These initiatives have placed Singapore as one of the global top spots in attracting talents and potential for new businesses — this was not apparent a decade ago,” said Mr Chia. British technology company Dyson, which designs and manufactures household appliances such as bladeless fans and vacuum cleaners, had announced in October 2018 that they will produce their electric vehicle here. Said Mr Chia: “It is an unprecedented move.”
This transformation has also brought about a change in manpower needs. “The automotive industry now needs multi-disciplinary engineers, who have knowledge and skillsets in hardware and embedded software,” he said.
To equip students with those knowledge and skills, SIT is currently partnering automotive manufacturing company, Continental Singapore, where Mr Chia spent 13 years of his career prior to becoming a faculty member, in its Telematics (Intelligent Transportation Systems Engineering) degree programme. Said Mr Lo Kien Foh, President and CEO of Continental Singapore: “The programme will equip graduates with a well-rounded engineering capability and much needed hands-on experience to make them industry-ready.”
Things are also stirring in the food industry. The sector’s traditionally labour-intensive operations are moving towards a more sustainable model incorporating technology, said Associate Professor Wong Shin Yee, deputy programme director of the SIT-Massey University joint degree programme in Food Technology.
“Moving forward, food technologists will play a critical role in this transformation roadmap,” said Assoc Prof Wong. “We have seen more and more SMEs hiring their first food technologist.”
Among them is Mr John Cheng, director of Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory, Singapore’s oldest manufacturer of rock sugar, and red and black jaggery sugar. Having worked for his family’s 72-year-old business for a decade, Mr Cheng is looking to modernise the business’s manufacturing processes. “Unfortunately, in terms of knowledge, we were limited. There’s not much to refer to also within the food sector, as we are one of the few sugar manufacturers here,” he said.
Mr Cheng decided to tap on SIT’s chemical engineering and food technology cluster for help. “The students [in the food technology degree programme] help us better understand the scientific process — how sugar crystallisation occurs, bearing in mind all the environmental factors,” explained Mr Cheng. “Through the students’ laboratory work, we were able to adopt solutions that let us grow sugar crystals more efficiently in our factory.”