A resilient, digital new normal for Asia

Singapore’s DPM looks at the digital future.

COVID-19 has accelerated digitalisation and Industry 4.0 and many companies are responding to the fast-evolving situation, stated Heng Swee Keat, deputy prime minister of Singapore.

DPM Keat made his remarks the opening ceremony of the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific 2020.

He said manufacturers around the world adapted their capacities and capabilities to join the fight against COVID-19. Pharmaceutical and MedTech companies have stepped up the development and production of diagnostics, treatments, and potential vaccines. Automotive and electronics manufacturers responded to requests to produce ventilators. Breweries and distilleries converted their production lines to meet the demand for hand sanitisers.

“Companies in Singapore have also adapted well. For instance, Forefront Medical pivoted its manufacturing capability to produce swabs for COVID testing,” said the DPM. “Racer Technology branched into the production of surgical masks and face shields.”

Around the world, the lockdowns have disrupted supply chains and affected the availability of workers and companies with global supply chains were most greatly impacted.

“But I am glad that many of those based here in Singapore – such as Syngenta and Coca-Cola – are able to continue production by making adjustments to their operations, reskilling their workers and expanding their network of suppliers,” he said. “COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come, and we will not return to our way of life before the virus.”

The DPM noted for example, in the manufacturing sector there will be an increased premium on resilience, as companies rethink their production and supply chains. There will be added push for the reshoring, regionalisation, and diversification of production bases and supply chains.

Southeast Asia and Singapore are in a good position to be a part of this reconfiguration of supply chains in the coming years. The ten economies of Southeast Asia collectively represent the world’s fifth largest manufacturing economy, with US$600 billion in value-add. Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines are established manufacturing hubs for motor vehicles, electronics and chemicals. Vietnam and Indonesia are fast emerging manufacturing hubs.

“Singapore is a resilient base for advanced manufacturers in the region,” the DPM said. “As we emerge from the worst of the crisis, we are strengthening the foundations for manufacturing by increasing digital connectivity, strengthening maritime connectivity, and restoring air connectivity.”

The future of manufacturing will also be determined by the convergence of digital and other advanced technologies. IoT, AI, robotics and additive manufacturing will redefine the nature of manufacturing.

The pace of change will further accelerate, as firms seek to overcome a shortage of workers and to minimise contact between workers during this period.

Singapore is committed to develop and grow cutting-edge capabilities in advanced manufacturing.

Advanced manufacturing is a core focus of our R&D efforts, and will continue to feature prominently in our Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plans.

To emerge stronger as an economy, we commissioned industry-led Alliances for Action to prototype new ideas in growth areas, such as in robotics and the digitalisation of supply chains.

“Providing a more resilient and digital base for advanced manufacturing is part of Singapore’s vision to be a Global-Asia node for technology, innovation and enterprise,” he said. “As part of this vision, we can further contribute to industrial transformation and growth in the region in three ways.

In every crisis, there is opportunity. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers steam, we must make the most of the opportunities in this crisis, to ride the waves of growth in a post-COVID world.”






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