Industrial production has been critical to Singapore’s economic development since independence. Singapore’s success as a hub is attributed to its proximity to the markets in Asia, the ability to attract multinational corporations to jump-start industrial growth, and having a robust legal framework, logistics capabilities, reliable infrastructure and access to capital.

The manufacturing sector remains a crucial driving pillar of Singapore’s economy, accounting for more than 20% of our GDP in the first half of 2020 and employs about 450,000 workers, which account for around 12% of the country’s workforce. Despite the economic headwinds caused by COVID-19, Singapore’s overall manufacturing output has sustained well, notably in sectors such as electronics, precision engineering, and biomedical manufacturing. Singapore is ranked second in Bloomberg’s Innovation Index for 2021, owing to its world-class manufacturing capabilities and significant R&D spending.

Singapore has been encouraging businesses to implement solutions such as remote monitoring and automation to increase productivity in recent years. Increasing support for the manufacturing industry to meet the ever-changing demands of businesses and consumers worldwide through initiatives such as the development of Jurong Innovation District (JID) to be Asia’s leading advanced manufacturing hub and the establishment of the JTC-SBF Industry Transformation Initiative. This initiative enables the combined network of companies of JTC and SBF to easily access relevant resources across both networks and platforms such as curated workshops, capability building initiatives tailored to companies’ digital readiness, and link-ups to a larger pool of technology partners such as Siemens, Bosch Rexroth, Konica Minolta, Singapore Precision Engineering & Technology Association (SPETA) and its consortiums (SiTA, iSMART and iSAMS) and more.

For the integral manufacturing sector to achieve a 50% growth by 2030, it will have to develop its competitiveness through its ability to innovate quickly and produce higher-value products instead of lowering the cost of production or labour. The target was an ambitious one, given that it would be harder to get foreign labour to supplement the Singaporean workforce, shared Mr Chan Chun Sing, Trade and Industry Minister, in a media interview earlier in January 2021.

Businesses must incorporate these technologies into their innovation and manufacturing processes to remain globally competitive and create high-quality jobs. Those who have been successful have greater visibility and control over their operations, allowing them to respond to changes more quickly.

Looking forward to the future, we welcome Industry 5.0 that represents a new age in robotics and production in Singapore, where we put the human back into development and production.

The introduction of collaborative robots is critical in Industry 5.0, allowing humans and robots to work together to create a more significant customisation potential. Furthermore, it grants human operators the benefits of robots, such as technical precision and heavy-lifting capabilities, while humans refine the work and control quality. These “new collar” roles will require technical and soft skills rather than educational certificates and will be the new future of manufacturing.