Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
How Singapore companies can take their employees into i4.0: Minister Tan See Leng

How Singapore companies can take their employees into i4.0: Minister Tan See Leng

Speaking to HRO at a media doorstop, the Minister for Manpower shares how companies embarking on transformation can address potential resistance by employees, what additional skills gaps may emerge in the coming years, as well as what's in store for other sectors in Singapore as part of i4.0.

- With inputs by Lester Tan.

In this article, you can look can look forward to the following:

  • Updates on the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative, a collaboration of WSG and SBF.
  • Excerpts from a media doorstop with Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, on tackling resistance by employees towards transformation, and what's in store for i4.0 in Singapore in the coming years.

To read the interview excerpts, scroll straight below or click here

In March 2020, Workforce Singapore (WSG), in partnership with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), launched the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI) to help companies successfully implement and scale industry 4.0 (i4.0) solutions for business transformation, and put in place a human capital roadmap to upskill workers during the transformation.

Supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB), Enterprise Singapore (ESG), JTC Corporation (JTC) and industry partners, about 90 companies have benefited from the IHCI to date. These companies received practical recommendations on how to maximise productivity gains and have identified processes where they can potentially achieve up to S$60mn in cost savings and increased revenue, WSG and SBF shared in a press release today.

According to WSG, during the IHCI Enabler Programme, five key functional skills gaps were identified in the industry - namely, data synthesis, IoT management, staff performance management, production resource management, and continuous improvement.

These skills, it noted, are key to harness IoT data for insights, conduct root cause analyses, enable reskilling of operators, and conduct operator performance management.

Thus, as part of the programme, companies were shown how to develop accompanying job redesign roadmaps for the workforce, including operators and PMETs, highlight the changes to job roles brought about by the technological changes, and bridge them via recommended training and reskilling programmes to ensure workforce transformation in tandem with i4.0 technology adoption. 

About the IHCI and its multi-pronged approach

The IHCI adopts a multi-pronged approach to drive human capital transformation along with i4.0 adoption. The programme starts with the IHCI Self-Help Portal, which helps companies analyse and identify gaps in their human capital practices and digital processes. It is then followed by the eight-week IHCI Enabler Programme where companies are guided by dedicated experts from McKinsey & Company and EY to tackle priority areas such as asset efficiency, labour productivity, inventory optimisation, planning efficiency and quality performance. Companies can also trial i4.0 technologies on their shop floor and receive customised change management advice, human capital practice assessment, and a phased i4.0 roadmap to better support their workforce during the transformation.

The third prong involves an exclusive Community of Practice (COP). After completing the IHCI Enabler Programme, companies will be able to spend the next six to 12 months exploring fast-track roll-out solutions in a peer-to-peer learning environment, while receiving customised advice from leading Industry 4.0 companies including Auk, Arcstone, and KNOW. They can also tap on the Institute for Human Resource Professionals for advice on human capital-related initiatives. In addition, the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy (AMTA) has committed to support the COP, by linking IHCI Enabler alumni companies with their consultants, training providers and solution providers.

Apart from the above, the initiative also involves WSG’s Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Industry 4.0 Professionals/Executives and Associates, which aims to equip PMETs and shop floor operators with the required knowledge and skills to take on higher-value roles and i4.0 job roles within the manufacturing sector.

Members of the COP can enrol their employees in this PCP, by submitting resources developed during the IHCI Enabler Programme such as the business transformation plan, job redesign plan, and the i4.0 implementation roadmap during the application process.

In line with this, on Wednesday, Singapore's Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, was invited on a learning journey to Souperfoods, one of the home-grown enterprises that participated in the IHCI Enabler Programme, where he interacted with several other IHCI Enabler alumni companies. 

At a media doorstop following the learning journey, Human Resources Online caught up with Minister Tan to find out more about how companies embarking on transformation can address potential resistance by employees, what additional skills gaps may emerge in the coming years, as well as what's in store for other sectors in Singapore as part of i4.0.

Excerpts below.

Q How can companies address any potential resistance they may face by employees, especially the mature workforce, when they are undergoing transformation?

I think that it is, it is indeed one of those things that we deal with all the time. In terms of our job matching, in terms of our outreach to many of these workers and mature workers. What we try to do is to have career counselling advisors and coaches, where we actually go in to understand what are the concerns, the expectations as well as the attitudes and the knowledge and the perception of what this pivot and this transformation would mean for them. We've been actually quite successful in that sense. 

Now, there will always be a group of people who you'll find that they are very resistant to change in any way. In these types of cases, this is where the government will reach out to them and see how else we can help them. I know sometimes it's easy to say 'upskill' or 'reskill', and all that, but many of them may not see the need to actually be motivated, in which case, we need to understand what are the existing skill sets to see how we can help them to pivot.

I think the encouragement that I get from engaging companies - for instance, Souperfoods, earlier on it was Phoon Huat, Flo-line, and Asia Enterprises - is that many of them found this i4.0 human capital initiative to be very powerful and very pivotal in the way they look at things. From the way they manage their SKU inventory to the way they are able to manage the flow of the downtime in the different work processes and so on, freeing and allowing the core talent to focus on other things like strategic planning, finding out new businesses and so on.

I use this analogy - In the past, when we were young, we always taught our children: I cannot give you a fish. If I keep giving you a fish you will depend on me for the fish for the rest of your life. So they teach you how to fish. Because only when you know how to fish, then we are confident that you are, independent. Now, I want to say that in this day, the i4.0 Human Capital Initiative not only teaches them how to fish, but how (also teaches them how) to upskill the baits, to even making sure that the tensile strength of the line, the fishing rods, nets and so on are resilient to be able to catch the fish.

The government, on our hand, will support you by finding fishing grounds for you, where there is bountiful harvest for fish so that with all the skill sets you have learned as a result of the IHCI, when you go to these fishing grounds which the government finds for you, you will have bountiful harvests. So I hope that that covers the entire ecosystem of the question that you are putting. Thank you.

Q The five functional skills gaps identified were iOT management, staff performance management, etc. What are some other skills gaps you foresee emerging in the next 1-2 years?

I think fundamentally, we have an excellent workforce. The talent sets are there, we have a good foundation, the process, the thinking. I think the key thing is, how do we open up our mindset to the infinite possibilities that will come with globalisation, with the Internet of Things, with artificial intelligence, with the use of blockchain?

We should not be stymied into a particular sort of operating cadence, but rather, be able to think out of the box and think of the possibilities that exist. I think as long as we have and we are able to imbibe that mindset within us, then the ability to embrace change, is that you are part of that change, and that you can become the agent of that change itself.

So I think this is the mindset that we need to be able to inculcate and to bring everyone along and to carry the whole country along. I think that this is fundamental and I see that happening within the next couple of years. Once we get over this thing, in terms of getting everyone onto the same mindset, I think really the world is our oyster. 

Q What other Professional Conversion Programmes for i4.0 are on the horizon, to help other sectors in Singapore?

It will be sector specific, there are quite a number of growth sectors.

One of the sectors that I'm very passionate about because it's been pretty much all of my life, until the last one year, is healthcare. And I can say that with a rapidly ageing population, and yet with people having a longer lifespan, I think that healthcare is a huge growth factor for us. So, I would like to see more professional conversion programmes in terms of addressing our healthcare needs.

The other thing of course is in the built environment. This morning I shared that wholesale trade services is also a huge growth (sector), together with Infocomm, going into deep tech advanced manufacturing. So we have got multiple growth sectors, including even renewable energy, sustainable renewable energy, with my other portfolio as the second Minister for Trade and Industry and I cover the energy part itself. So there's a huge growth sector that we can see in the foreseeable couple of decades ahead. And we have a shortage, so there will be Professional Conversion Programmes in those sectors as well, and the list goes on.

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