Contemporary digital technologies have begun to fundamentally change the ways businesses process raw materials and create products, in turn giving rise to major shifts in the global manufacturing industry.
Many, in fact, feel that this transition is significant enough to represent a fourth major revolution in manufacturing and have thus begun to refer to it as Industry 4.0.
The first industrial revolution ushered in mechanized manufacturing through steam and water power, while the second saw the rise of mass production through electrically powered assembly lines.
The third industrial revolution introduced computers and automation technology to the production process, and the fourth is poised to enhance this model with highly autonomous, intelligent systems.
These new technologies use sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning to expedite manufacturing.
In response to the rise of Industry 4.0 Singapore has chosen to wholeheartedly embrace digital transformation and strengthen its industrial base in recent years. The country has since risen to prominence as a preferred advanced manufacturing hotspot for enterprises from all over the world by capitalizing on the following advantages:
Superior Manufacturing Ecosystem
Manufacturing has been a major driver of economic growth in Singapore since the island nation first gained its independence in 1965. It remains a cornerstone of the Singaporean economy even today, accounting for about 20% of the national GDP.
Singapore boasts a rich and diverse industrial base and occupies influential positions in numerous key sectors, including the biomedical sciences, chemicals, aerospace, and semiconductor industries.
The country is also a hub for high-value manufacturing and has been recognized as the fourth largest global exporter of high-tech goods in the world. Four of the world’s top 10 drugs by revenue, for example, are produced in Singapore, and it is also the fifth largest producer of refined oil globally.
Singapore’s manufacturing ecosystem includes a wide-reaching network of top construction, procurement and engineering firms. Numerous affiliated research institutes also collaborate directly with companies to develop, refine, and produce innovative solutions.
This rich industrial environment has led many top companies from around the world to establish not only production facilities but complete suites of regional HQ offices, supply chain management units and R&D facilities in the country.
Support infrastructure to support the manufacturing industry such as sound legal, compliance, accounting and finance functions are also in place. Singapore is a strong finance hub and also advancing rapidly in innovative financing solutions such as digital business loan applications for companies.
Abundant Investment in R&D
Singapore is recognized worldwide as a leading force for innovation in large part because of its copious investments in research and development. The Singapore Government, for instance, has pledged US$2.4 billion to industry-focused research efforts within the engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors.
The government also routinely launches national initiatives to help partner organizations adopt and find useful applications for new technology. Such programmes include the National Robotics Programme, which helps support robotics adoption in a variety of sectors. Another prominent initiative in this area is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, which helps partner companies find commercial applications for 3D printing research.
A number of Singaporean research institutes and universities are now also home to facilities known as Model Factories. These facilitate test-bedding for emerging manufacturing technologies in a realistic production environment.
Strong, Future-Oriented Workforce
The dawn of Industry 4.0 has ushered in a period of growth and transformation for manufacturing professionals in Singapore, whose skill sets have had to evolve to meet the demands of this new age. Luckily, Singapore’s industrial workforce is well-known for its competence and adaptability, ranking second on the 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index.
The government has also taken steps to prepare the nation’s workforce to take on new roles by equipping them with the skills they will need to perform in those roles.
National training initiatives such as the SkillsFuture Series in Advanced Manufacturing feature comprehensive information on skills listings, career roadmaps and available resources for upskilling. Key industry experts and educational institutions collaborate with the government in designing these programmes to ensure that they align well with the needs of target sectors.
Dedicated Support for Small and Medium Enterprises
At present, Singapore is working to ensure that all its businesses are well-positioned to incorporate and implement Industry 4.0 strategies regardless of their size.
In collaboration with the Singapore Business Federation, the organization Workforce Singapore (WSG) has launched a programme to assist small to medium-sized manufacturing companies with integrating Industry 4.0 solutions and methodologies into their current processes. This programme is known as the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI).
The IHCI has assisted as many as 90 companies with Industry 4.0 integration since its launch in 2020. Many of these companies have seen marked improvements in their operational processes as a result, such as reduced assembly cycle times and increased revenues. WSG and the Singapore Business Federation hope to support another 210 firms through the initiative by 2022.
SMEs can also tap onto various government business loan available for SMEs to access financing in their productivity and capability upgrading journey. Fixed assets financing would probably be a core component for SMEs embarking on hardware upgrading programme.
Maximizing Industry 4.0 business practices rests, in large part, upon being able to find appropriate solutions to address the needs of a particular business or sector. Companies making this transition can benefit from examining the processes and successes of other organizations in the same industry to determine the best solutions to implement.
The availability of SME loan financing and access to capital are also a critical part of the Industry 4.0 movement for SMEs in particular. Government assisted financing schemes such as the Temporary Bridging Loan can help SMEs bridge working capital gap or invest into advanced hardware and equipment.
Singapore is one of the best-positioned countries in the world for Industry 4.0 due to its thriving manufacturing ecosystem, deep and diverse pool of talent, and copious government support for innovation, among other factors. The steps it has taken thus far to embrace digital transformation and advanced manufacturing only stand to strengthen the industry and its proponents in the future.