Make Manufacturing Sexy

THE WORLD is hung up on data.

Everywhere the talk is about what data can do for you, and why it should be harvested and used as fuel for businesses. Many businesses jump in, without quite understanding why they are doing this. Others are hanging back, it would seem to figure things out, but more often because they don’t know what’s going on.

While some industries adopt it quicker, others, used to a different pace, are finding the transitions too quick to handle. Disoriented by the disruptions taking place globally, these businesses run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

The manufacturing industry has businesses that are undecided about their next steps. This is a challenging situation that requires various parties to come together to seek solutions.

With this in mind, the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), which has some 3,000 companies in its fold, has initiated an ongoing conversation that aims to be inclusive rather than exclusive, aimed at accelerating the process of updating the industry.

Unlike some national conversations that seem to require an invitation to contribute, the SMF wants to open theirs up to a wider audience. Only problem is, it doesn’t know quite how to reach out to a key segment of the community — the youth.

Targeting The Youth

“We want to show that manufacturing is a sexy and cool industry, and ,” says Douglas Foo (pictured above), Chairman of SMF. Foo has been the SMF chair for four years, and is much awarded and recognised for growing his Sakae Sushi business into an international concern.

“We want to involve the youth, but how do we reach them? What will make them excited?” he wonders.

Currently, the conversation involves educational institutions, government agencies and trade associations. Ideally, Foo wants a wider reach in an industry that wants to continue contributing to 20% of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP).

For those interested to join the conversation, email

Wider Reach

Foo was speaking to STORM.SG on the sidelines of Manufacturing Solutions Expo 2017, currently on at Singapore Expo.

In this environment, where robot arms go about their businesses — be it creating 3D products or getting you a cappuccino — Singapore’s reputation as a smart nation is being built.

Crown Coffee Josephine Teo
Crown Coffee Robotics at work, getting a cuppa for Minister Jospehine Teo at MSE 2017.

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At MSE2017, an alliance was forged between the SMF, Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF), Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association (SPETA) and Singapore industrial Automation Association (SIAA) to “help companies in their transformation journey”.

Given Singapore’s small domestic market, Foo says it’s vital to take the game to a higher level. Currently, the key manufacturing sectors in Singapore are those rooted in technology and high-value. They include electronics, transport engineering, biomedical, chemicals, precision engineering and general manufacturing.

In the last year, based on EDB statistics, all sectors except general manufacturing registered growth.

Foo says the plan to maintain Singapore’s manufacturing prowess is to bring the neighbouring ASEAN countries into the picture in a bigger way. This would address manpower and cost issues while also tapping on the 600 million strong regional market.

“This collaborative model will help us piece things together and market quicker,” Foo explains. “We will start in ASEAN, then go regional before becoming global.”

Into Africa

The global steps are also underway, as the Africa-Asean Business Expo takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa in early November. Some 18 months in the planning, this initiative will bring industries from ASEAN countries to Africa to showcase capabilities and drum up business.

The annual event will alternate between Africa and Singapore. Next year’s event will take place in Singapore, who will chair ASEAN.

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