SINGAPORE: More than 5,000 companies have benefited from a Government programme meant to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reduce their reliance on foreign manpower, adopt manpower-lean initiatives and drive business growth through the adoption of technology, said Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Wednesday (Oct 25).
This update comes two years after the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) programme was introduced in October 2015.
The scheme also gives SMEs temporary flexibility in deploying foreign manpower as businesses carry out plans to be more innovative and productive.
For instance, if a firm adopts a new method of production that reduces the number of foreign workers employed, they can temporarily retain existing higher-skilled foreigners who may be needed to manage production while locals are being trained for the new production method.
That’s even if the regulatory ratio specifying the proportion of foreigners among employees has been changed.
Speaking at the Manufacturing Solutions Expo (MSE) and Singapore Innovation and Productivity Conference (SIPC) 2017, Mrs Teo also said SMEs need to embrace transformation and understand that competing on cost alone will not give them an edge.
“But this is nothing new and Singapore manufacturers have long been used to the idea that they have to compete on value. Our manufacturers know that they need to innovate to produce better products, invest in technology to produce them more efficiently, and be more responsive to changing customer needs.”
Mrs Teo cited that the manufacturing sector accounts for one fifth of Singapore’s GDP and half a million jobs, and SMEs contribute to a quarter of that output in the sector and employ 60 per cent of the manufacturing workforce.
She shared the example of local manufacturer An Sing Trading, which had adopted a tech solution that helps it to manage inventory. It has in turn, helped ramp up the enterprise’s productivity by 20 per cent and allowed its staff to work on higher value-added tasks like product servicing and distribution, to help grow its topline.
Mrs Teo noted that Trade Associations and Chambers can play the integral role of industry enablers to support SMEs as they transform and digitalise.
Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Understanding has been inked between the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SITF), Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Federation (SPETA) and Singapore Industrial Automation Association (SIAA) on Wednesday.
Under the deal, the five will team up to jointly develop and roll out initiatives aimed to deepen the capabilities of Singapore’s manufacturing sector.