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Speech at First Graduation Ceremony of The Precision Engineering Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Graduate Diploma in Manufacturing Operations Management and Launch of The SME Manufacturing Excellence (S.M.E) Programme

Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade , Industry and Manpower, LHT Holdings Limited

Mr Neo Koon Boo, Managing Director, LHT Holdings Limited

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning.

  1. Thank you for inviting me. I am happy to celebrate with the pioneer batch of 29 graduates on their completion of the Graduate Diploma in Manufacturing Operations Management Programme. I would like to commend the graduates for their commitment in life-long learning.

    Invest in CET to boost SMEs' productivity and competitiveness
  2. As we are aware, our economy has recovered strongly from last year's recession. GDP grew by 16.9% and 19.5% in the first and second quarter this year. We rebounded with strength because of the productive capacity we had invested in yesterday. Whether we would rebound from future downturn would depend on what we do today.
  3. This is why for the next phase of growth, our economy has to be driven by innovation and productivity gain rather than by pure injection of labour input. Towards this goal, we need more skillful workers rather than more workers. MOM is working with WDA to expand the scope of the national Continuing Education and Training (CET) system. With more courses, we hope to provide more relevant training not just for workers, but also to meet the training needs of professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs).
  4. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play an important role in our national productivity drive, as they employ nearly six out of every ten workers in Singapore. The recent announcement by Minister Gan Kim Yong on the expanded scope of CET would benefit SMEs, which often face resource constraints.
  5. Firstly, SMEs can tap on a wider range of training courses that can meet their needs. Secondly, with the comprehensive development of the WSQ system, SMEs can be assured of the quality of training and professionalism of adult educators accredited with WSQ. Thirdly, the range of training providers has also widened to include CET Centers capable of offering customised training modules for SMEs requiring onsite training.
  6. Workers' upgrading is necessary but may not be sufficient for firms aiming for long-term, sustainable productivity improvement. Application of technology and R&D become other critical building blocks for firms seeking quantum leaps in productivity improvement. In this respect, A*STAR and SIMTech run a number of initiatives targeted at SMEs in the manufacturing sector. For instance, A*STAR's Aerospace Programme brings together SMEs like IDI Laser, Sunny Instruments and Tru-Marine to embark on research alongside global aerospace giants like Boeing, EADS, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney as well as local companies like SIA Engineering.
  7. In addition, SIMTech also runs Centres of Innovation, such as the Precision Engineering Centre of Innovation, to help SMEs upgrade their capabilities and keep pace with the rapidly changing technological landscape. Such initiatives will raise the global competitiveness of SMEs and open doors to more business opportunities. Larger companies can also benefit from building up and cultivating a stronger local base of suppliers and partners. With a comprehensive CET system and sophisticated R&D infrastructure in place, SMEs can look forward to more breakthroughs in their quest for higher productivity.

    WSQ Graduate Diploma in Manufacturing Operations Management
  8. Today marks the graduation of our 29 graduates in the WSQ Graduate Diploma of Manufacturing Operations Management Programme. This programme was launched jointly by WDA and A*STAR's SIMTech in 2009 to equip manufacturing professionals with skills and knowledge to spearhead productivity improvements in their organisations. Kim Hiap Lee, a SME subsidiary of LHT Holdings, is one company which has benefited from this programme.
  9. Consider the case of Mr Thomas Yeo, who works in Kim Hiap Lee. Thomas' employer provides leasing of pallets to the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) distributors. With the assistance of SIMTech in technology application, and Thomas' new knowledge acquired in the graduate diploma programme, he was able to help his company to implement a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-based system pallets tracking in terms of stock balance and their physical locations.
  10. Leveraging on the RFID technology, Mr Yeo has helped his employer achieve a potential annual cost savings of $52,500 for the company and $375,000 for their customers. The company can also re-deploy its staff to higher-value jobs which are better paying. This example demonstrates how training and technology application can benefit be combined to raise productivity, benefiting the company and employees.

    SME Manufacturing Excellence Programme
  11. To successfully bring about productivity improvement, technology application alone may not be sufficient. The company itself, the culture of its people must also be adaptable to changes and new ways of doing things. In short, the success of productivity improvement initiatives requires "change agents".
  12. Today, I am pleased to announce a new programme – the SME Manufacturing Excellence (S.M.E.) Programme – developed by WDA and SIMTech. This new programme aims to groom a pool of "Change Agents" or "TechnoVation Managers" within SMEs. These change agents will spearhead operational reviews within their companies, propose changes for productivity enhancements and implement continuous improvement initiatives.
  13. The SME Manufacturing Excellence programme comprises both classroom training and on-site mentorship. The classroom training focuses on transferring knowledge in operations management techniques like Value Stream Mapping1, Lean Manufacturing2 and the use of Operations Management Innovation (OMNI) methodology3. The on-site mentorship reinforces the classroom learning through the application of the OMNI methodology in the trainee's organisation. Trainees will identify operations improvement areas and develop implementation action plan. Those who complete the programme will also be able to take on additional modules to eventually attain the PE WSQ Graduate Diploma in Manufacturing Operations Management.
  14. For a start, SIMTech and WDA targets to train 150 TechnoVation Managers from 100 manufacturing SMEs in the next two to three years. Participants are expected to gain at least 5% operational efficiency improvement within one year of implementation in the targeted area.

  15. With expanded choices of CET courses, with the launch of SME Manufacturing Excellence programme, I would like to urge our SMEs to take full advantage of the various programmes to innovate, to train and raise productivity.
  16. To all the 29 graduates, may I congratulate you on your achievements. I hope your fine examples of learning will inspire your colleagues to sign up for CET training as well.
  17. Thank you.


1 Value stream mapping is a visualisation technique used to identify and map the physical activity process and information flows of a company, necessary to transform raw material into product to fulfill the customer orders. It is called a value stream because it depicts the sequence of activities that creates value for the customer.

2 Lean manufacturing is a systematic manufacturing technique to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value-added activities) in manufacturing through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.

3 Operations management is the set of activities that create values in the form of goods and services by transforming inputs into outputs. Operations management innovation is the use of new innovative ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the companies' operations.