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Speech at Texcare Forum Singapore 2016

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, The Devan Nair Institute For Employment and Employability

Good Morning

Mr Richard Li, GM, Messe Frankfurt

Mr Li Guang Qiang, Secretary-General, China Light Industry Machinery Association

Mr TP Chan, CEO, TCA Textile Care Training Centre

Mr Gilbert Tan, CEO, e2i

Friends from overseas and Singapore laundry and hotel industries

Ladies and Gentlemen 

  1. First of all, I would like to welcome you to Texcare Forum Singapore.
  2. The laundry industry provides an essential service in our economy and society. Be it airlines, dormitories, gyms/fitness centers, schools, hotels, public and private hospitals, factories, restaurants and spa.
  3. In other words, without your service, our lives would be quite different.
  4. There are altogether about 350 establishments, operating 520 outlets and employing over 13,000 workers here in Singapore. The workforce is split into local workers and foreign workers. About 2/3 are local workers and 1/3 are work pass holders.
  5. As with other industries, the laundry industry is today facing the same challenge of a tight labor market. In other words, we are all facing the challenge of a slow workforce growth.
  6. Our workforce is still growing but growing much slower. Our workforce used to grow at about 4% a year and in numbers that would be 70,000 workers every year. But the number is coming down, the increase last year drop from 70,000 to 700 workers. There is a sharp decline.
  7. The reason is because in Singapore today, our workforce is also ageing. Many of the baby boomer generation are entering retirement age and so every year more workers are going into retirement. At the same time, the number of new entries, workers in their twenties, joining the workforce are also coming down.
  8. As a result, the net increase in our local workforce has decreased drastically from 4% a year in the past to 2% last year to about 1% currently. In about 10 years from now, in the year 2025, our local workforce increase will hit 0%. In other words, here will be a stagnation and local workers will be harder to come by.
  9. The split between local workers and foreign workers is about 2/3 to 1/3. So for every 3 person working in Singapore today, 2 are local workers and 1 is a foreign worker.
  10. Since the local workforce is slowing down, we have decided at the same time to slow down the growth of the foreign workforce so that in a longer term, we can maintain the ratio of 2/3 to 1/3.
  11. What this means for companies and industries is that they need to not only compete for customers but also workers. In the case of the laundry sector, another challenge will be faced. On top of the 2/3 to 1/3 local and foreign workers split, 70 % of the workers are older than 50 so from 10 to 20 years from now, they will be 60 to 70.
  12. The question to this sector would be how you are going to sustain their growth even when the local workforce growth is slowing down.
  13. With this in mind, the Singapore government together with the unions, NTUC and e2i and SNEF are working together to transform the economy sector by sector.
  14. Right now, 23 sectors of economy that comprises of 80% of our economy are going through a process of transformation. One of the key objectives is to make our economy more manpower lean through innovation and productivity.
  15. The tripartite partners are working closely with the laundry industry to help them to be more innovative and productive and hopefully towards being more manpower lean.
  16. e2i is our tripartite champion for the laundry industry. In the last 4 years, e2i has been partnering with the laundry industry to support the industry in transformation
  17. Over the last four years, the e2i  has funded 35 projects to redesign jobs through automation under the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) and Workpro Job Redesign Grant to help redesign jobs to make them more age friendly and more suitable for older workers.
  18. So in other words, what we are trying to do working together with the industry is to (1) Make tasks Easier; (2) Workplaces Safer and (3) Solutions Smarter.
  19. For all workers, especially older ones, we want them to continue to be H2P2 in working in your sector. H2P2 means to be Happy, Healthy, Productive and confident to live a Purposeful life. In other words, make their job easier, safer and smarter so that they can continue to be productive and do a purposeful work. At the same time, be happy and healthy
  20. As for the companies who want to help the industry, they should continue to tap on the experience and expertise of mature workers, bearing in mind that 70% of workers are older than 50.
  21. So far, in the last four years, we are encouraged by the response we have received from the key players in the industry.
  22. Today, we are very happy to be here to recognise four of these Productivity Champions.

    Commercial Laundry Champion- Zero Spot Laundry Service

  23. First, in the commercial laundry area, we are recognizing Zero Spot Laundry Service as our champion in commercial laundry. Zero Spot was incorporated in 1987 - almost 30 years. Today, Zero Spot is a market leader in offering large scale laundry solutions to hotels and service apartment.
  24. Manual sorting and storage handling are time consuming and labour-intensive. With RFID and automated Monorail Conveyor System, Zero Spot is able to achieve output productivity gain by more than 100% (more than double of output productivity), and manpower saving of more than 20%.
  25. They have bigger capacity and at the same time better capabilities in becoming more manpower lean  As a result they are able to break their bottlenecks in production, withstanding slower growth in workforce and ageing of their workers.
    Retail Laundry Champion- Systematic Laundry & Healthcare Services

  26. Secondly, in the area of retail laundry, we are recognizing Systematic Laundry and Healthcare Services. Since 1979, it specializes in laundry and dry cleaning to general consumers and industrial clients.
  27. It faces higher rental and operating costs, and at the same time, difficulty in hiring and retaining frontline service staff.
  28. With the deployment of laundry ATM (Auto Transaction Machine), customers are now able to deposit their laundry through this ATM and as a result, they are able to widen area of market coverage with lower rental and fewer staff.
  29. Most of all, improve accuracy and reduce human errors.
  30. The outcome is that Systematic Laundry and Healthcare services is able to reduce rental and operating cost by 60%, and at the same time, manpower savings of more than 50%.
    Work Environment Champion- SATS Aero Laundry

  31. In the area of Work Environment, we are recognizing SATS Aero Laundry because we know that the work environment in the laundry industry is not exactly conducive. It provides quality linen laundering to industries such as aviation, healthcare, hospitality and others.
  32. The work environment is hot and humid, especially when 44% of their workers are older workers.
  33. Install Smart Coolers is a new solution developed in Singapore that is able to offer outdoor comfort in high humidity tropical climates we have here in Singapore, and each cooler is able to cover an area of 100 sqm
  34. As a result of that, workers now enjoy better ventilation and work environment. Improve workplace productivity by 50%, and energy savings of up to 80%.
    Job Design Champion – Presto Drycleaners

  35. Last but not least, Job Design Champion because we have been encouraging industries to redesign the jobs in the sector. In this case, we are recognizing Presto Drycleaners as a champion in Job Design
  36. For 20 years, they have been a market leader in dry cleaning and laundry services.
  37. It has one of the fastest growing with 10 collection outlets and 4 mobile house-call service vans.
  38. Manual sorting of laundry items likewise was inefficient, labour-intensive and time consuming. Also, there were problems with misplaced and missing customer items due to human errors.
  39. The company decided to install an Automated Laundry Sorting System and as a result they are able to sort laundry items accurately according to outlets, bearing in mind there are 10 outlets.
  40. The outcome is that they are able to achieve Accurate, minimal labour, less errors. Time savings of 85% and manpower savings of 80%.
  41. Most of all, workers have seen their jobs re-designed – no more “sorter”, but today they look at themselves as a “quality controller”.

  42. These Productivity Champions show us that the best way to overcome business challenges is to break whatever bottlenecks that stand in the way.
  43. Operating business in any countries, Singapore included is always challenging. The cost is increasing while there is a lack of manpower, therefore we look at bottlenecks and break them. If there’s a will there’s always a way. As a result, this productivity champion has showed us that it is possible to achieve higher labour productivity and at the same time, improve the quality of service.
  44. With the use of technology, they make the jobs and workplaces easier, safer and smarter for the workers - both local workers and foreign workers.
  45. Against the backdrop of structural changes in our economy and manpower landscapes, business transformation is essential, not an option.
  46. It doesn’t matter what kind of companies you are in. Not just for big MNCs, but SMEs too. Every one of us need to transform our business together because the economy and the workforce of Singapore is going through a transition.
  47. Three to five years from now, the way we conduct a business in Singapore, nurture and deploy our manpower will be different from today so please don’t be left behind, be part of this transformation process.
  48. In conclusion, with a clear vision of our enterprises and strong leadership of our tripartite partners, I believe we can all transform together, adapt together and grow together towards better growth for your businesses and better jobs for our people. With that, I wish you all the very best. Thank you very much.