SINGAPORE: Three thousand jobs for professionals, executive, managers and technicians (PMETs) in the precision engineering sector is expected to come online by 2020 as part of the industry transformation map for precision engineering, Trade and Industry (Industry) Minister S Iswaran announced on Wednesday (Oct 12).
Speaking at local manufacturing firm Meiban on Wednesday, Mr Iswaran said the jobs planned under the roadmap include new roles in digital manufacturing such as positions for robot coordinators and industrial data scientists.
PMETs are projected to account for almost six in 10 jobs by 2020, and the Government will help to equip workers to take on these new roles under its new Skills Framework for Precision Engineering launched by SkillsFuture Singapore.
According to the Minister, a key strategy of the plan is to shift the industry into new growth areas such as additive manufacturing, robotics, advanced materials, sensors and lasers and optics.
He added that the average annual growth rate for such segments is expected to come in at around 10 per cent due to demand for their applications.
Precision engineering is a key pillar of Singapore’s manufacturing base, employing 94,000 workers and contributing S$8.8 billion to the economy in 2014. This was nearly 15 per cent of Singapore’s total manufacturing value added the same year, according to the Economic Development Board (EDB).
Under the roadmap for the precision engineering industry, the value added is expected to grow to S$14 billion by 2020, according to EDB, and Mr Iswaran said the aim is to grow the industry's output from the current S$32 billion to S$42 billion.
The Government had announced plans to develop industry transformation maps for more than 20 sectors during Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's Budget 2016 speech in March. The industry transformation map for precision engineering is the first to be rolled out for a manufacturing sector, and the third overall after the launch of the food services and retail industry transformation maps.
In a Facebook post, supervising lead of NTUC Electronics and Precision & Machinery Engineering Cluster Melvin Yong welcomed the new roadmap but said it is important to help workers to transit into new roles.
Said Mr Yong: “Following the Precision Engineering Industry Transformation Map launch this morning by Minister S Iswaran, the tripartite partners comprising the Government, the unions and the companies will need to work even more closely together, especially at the sectoral level, to build up the industry’s capabilities, create employment and manage job transitions for our workers.
“To take on these future jobs, our workers must be well-equipped with value-added skillsets and knowledge. While there are good efforts within the Industry Transformation Map to attract new entrants into the industry, more proactive and dedicated help must be provided to the existing workforce to help them stay ready, stay resilient and stay relevant to the changing precision engineering landscape."
MODEL FACTORIES AND 'DIGITAL CHAMPIONS'
In his speech, Mr Iswaran outlined two key strategies to help drive digital manufacturing in the precision manufacturing industry.
The first was the launch of “model digital factories” at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre that will help develop digital technologies and solutions for companies, the Minister said. The first phases of these factories are expected to be ready by next year, he added.
The second key strategy involves EDB grooming precision engineering companies to digitise factory operations. For example, Meiban is one of these "digital champions", test-bedding solutions in robotics, automation and smart factory software under its "iSmart Factory" project.
Meiban's head of research and development Helen Ho said the company plans to invest about S$10 million to S$15 million into the initiative and hopes to see results after a year. There are plans to roll out the solutions at Meiban's other factories located overseas in Malaysia and China, she said.
Ms Ho added that Meiban projects a 20 per cent to 30 per cent growth in productivity, and expects that the solutions developed could reduce its reliance on foreign labour. However, she said she does not expect robots to replace employees at Meiban, but to complement both existing and newly-created roles.
The company also recently signed an agreement with tech solution partners such as PBA, Arcstone, Kuka and RansNet to drive efforts in developing such technology to improve productivity, it said.