SINGAPORE: As demand for cleaning services continues to increase, the Government is putting place plans to help the industry adopt technology and cope with the manpower crunch.
An Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the Environmental Services Industry was launched on Monday (Dec 11), with a series of initiatives to help companies drive innovation, train workers and improve procurement practices.
The aim is that by 2025, about 30,000 workers in the environmental services industry can benefit from higher value-added jobs, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a media release.
Autonomous vehicles could also be used to clean the streets of Singapore.
Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that later this week, NEA and the Ministry of Transport will be putting out a Request for Proposal for this purpose. He did not give further details.
“In the near future, we can see autonomous cleaning equipment having the capability to ‘talk’ with one another and take the lift to other floors to perform cleaning operations more independently,” said Mr Masagos at the launch of the ITM.
“This will free up their human co-worker’s time to focus on higher value work such as equipment fleet management or maintenance, or customer service,” he added.
“Automation can make the work easier, robots can perform routine, repetitive or unpleasant tasks; data analytics can optimise the deployment of limited resources - all these will enable the industry to be better and smarter in its service delivery.”
7 COMPANIES TO CONDUCT TRIALS OF TECH SOLUTIONS
One of the new initiatives under the ITM is a programme called INCUBATE, which seven organisations have signed on to.
In collaboration with NEA, the seven organisations will introduce technology trials for cleaning and waste management systems on several private premises.
City Developments Limited (CDL), for instance, intends to use sensors to track the level of ammonia in toilets as well as deploy robotics like autonomous scrubbers for hard floor cleaning to address the manpower crunch.
There will also be a rodent monitoring system on trial to help with pest control.
Such technologies will be tested at CDL properties such as City Square Mall, Le Grove Serviced Apartments and Republic Plaza.
“CDL adopts innovative technologies and solutions to continuously raise the operational efficiency and environmental performance of our properties," said CDL’s group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong.
"This also helps to further enhance the comfort and well-being of our customers and tenants,” he added.
At Changi General Hospital, its Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology will look into an autonomous or semi-autonomous cleaning and disinfection system.
Chang Airport Group (CAG), meanwhile, is testing “fill” sensors in some of its rubbish bins in Terminal 3. The sensors will alert cleaning staff when the bins are full.
CAG said it plans to retrofit 150 bins with such sensors in Terminal 4 for the next stage of trials.
NEW CONTRACTING MODEL
Another key prong of the ITM is to improve productivity through encouraging better procurement practices.
Instead of focusing on headcount requirements when drafting cleaning contracts, the Government is hoping service buyers will specify desired outcomes instead.
Real estate developer Pontiac Land has adopted such a contracting method since April this year at five of its properties, including Millenia Walk and Millenia Towers.
The company said it switched to the new model because of manpower constraints under the old contracting model.
“The contractor had trouble finding staff. So even if we specified 10 people in the contract, sometimes only eight would turn up ... the contractors were also in a hard place,” said Pontiac Land’s senior vice president of strategic procurement Kwee Wei-Lin.
But switching to a outcome-based contracting model means that the company had to work closely with the service provider to help them understand the performance based indicators.
“We were very specific with what we wanted ... for example, we use photographs to illustrate how clean we want the floor to be,” Ms Kwee explained, noting that the company saw 7 per cent cost savings under the new contracting model.
“The positives for the contractor was that it gives them flexibility with his headcount arrangement and encourages them to innovate and use technology to help productivity,” she added.
NEA said it has worked with other Government agencies and industry stakeholders to develop a guide for drafting such outcome-based contracts.
It consists of specifications or clauses for drafting such contracts, guidelines on performance evaluation and templates for inspections and performance monitoring.
A skills framework for the industry was also launched on Monday.
Jointly developed by NEA, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), the guide provides key information on existing and emerging skills that are needed for jobs in the cleaning and waste management sectors.
Using the framework, employers will be able to identify the skills needed and invest in training for their workers, said NEA.
It added that those who wish to join the cleaning and waste management sectors can also identify the relevant training programmes to upgrade their skills.