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SMEs to get more help in upskilling workers: Dr Koh Poh Koon

SINGAPORE — When Racer Technology began its Industry 4.0 drive in 2016, the local medtech manufacturing firm recognised the need to upskill its workers in order to achieve success in its adoption of advanced manufacturing operations.

SMEs to get more help in upskilling workers: Dr Koh Poh Koon

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon visits Racer Technology, a local medtech manufacturer, on Monday (Feb 11).

SINGAPORE — When Racer Technology began its Industry 4.0 drive in 2016, the local medtech manufacturing firm recognised the need to upskill its workers in order to achieve success in its adoption of advanced manufacturing operations.

Many of its staff had been with Racer for more than 30 years and needed to refresh their skills. Out of its 160 workers in Singapore, a quarter of them are research scientists and engineers.

So in 2017, the firm sent 15 staff for the Model Factory@A*Star Staff Training module where they learned how to use the relevant software and received on-the-job training.

The firm’s move to train and upskill its staff is “something that we want to encourage our small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to do”, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon during a visit to Racer’s headquarters at Changi South Street on Monday (Feb 11).

“SMEs should send their workforce for upskilling, otherwise you can buy the technology, but your workforce may not be able to help you reap the full benefits.”

More initiatives to encourage SMEs to send workers for training will be revealed at the ministry’s Committee of Supply debate next month and there may also be “some degree" of funding support, added Dr Koh.

He also encouraged more local firms to tap on existing platforms to send workers for training, such as the collaboration between Racer Technology and Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Since A*Star started conducting Workforce Skills Qualification courses in 2008, over 4,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians from 1,500 companies — including Racer Technology — have attended them. 

A*Star's Model Factory initiative, which is designed to provide technological solutions to cut cost and raise productivity, has worked on 137 industry projects with companies such as Racer Technology since its launch in October 2017.

The company adopted four Model Factory technologies, including a digital operations management system that provides real-time overview of production, allowing workers to respond promptly to urgent orders.

Racer Technology’s chief executive officer Willy Koh said that this has helped the company to save on labour costs and improve efficiency as digitalisation allowed its factory to produce the same output with fewer work shifts.

“They (A*Star) already have their scientists and engineers. We just need to make sure we improve on the products… to make it better, make it cheaper,” said Mr Koh.

“Technology solutions adopted helped us to spot operational issues in real time like last-minute raw materials shortage and delays in JIT (Just in Time) parts arriving.”

INCREASING GLOBAL DEMAND

With Racer Technology embarking on the digitisation of its manufacturing processes and upskilling of its workforce, the firm is capable of high-mix, low-volume production — where there is an increasing global demand, especially in the tech sector. Manufacturers that provide high-mix, low-volume production can change product requirements and convert assembly lines quickly, and easily add capacity to accommodate increased volume.

“This opens up opportunities for them,” said Dr Koh. “We see medtech as a growth sector so we want to encourage more SMEs to go into this space.”

Last year, Racer Technology recorded a year-on-year revenue growth of 11 per cent from 2017. The local firm, which employs about 1,800 staff and has eight factories across Asia, is aiming to double its revenue to S$80 million in the next four to five years.

The company spends approximately $1 million on research and development (R&D) annually, but foresees that this expenditure may increase as it looks to grow its revenue.

“I don't just want to recycle the inventions of others. It's essential to spend on R&D to remain ahead of the competition, otherwise we'll get left behind,” said Mr Koh.

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