Imagine walking into a hotel staffed by humanoid robots capable of greeting guests, carrying luggage and cleaning rooms. Or imagine having your hair styled by a 24-fingered hair-washing machine. While these might sound like scenes from a sci-fi movie, they could soon be a reality in Singapore.
Recently, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Manpower, went on a Lean Enterprise Development (LED) study mission to Japan. He was joined by representatives from the Restaurant Association of Singapore, Singapore Productivity Centre and SPRING Singapore (now Enterprise Singapore1), and delegates from local food and beverage companies.
Japan is considered a world leader in adopting automation solutions and robotics to boost productivity and reduce manpower needs. Restaurants throughout the country have rolled out a number of innovative technologies to ensure quicker service, including laser-scanning meat machines, conveyor fryers, and edible ink and image printers.
Singapore now aims to emulate these concepts and successes in local industries. “The government is keen to support manpower-lean growth through the LED Scheme – be it in the form of grant support, consultancy or temporary manpower flexibility – to help SMEs reinvent their current workflow processes,” says Mr Teo.
The government has put in place a range of support programmes to help local companies enhance their technology innovation capabilities. These include SPRING’s (now Enterprise Singapore1) Innovation & Capability Voucher which helps SMEs upgrade their capabilities, and the Capability Development Grant (CDG) – a grant assistance programme that helps enterprises upgrade their capabilities across 10 key areas by covering up to 70% of project costs, including consultancy, manpower, training and certification.
Although this strong government support alleviates some of the financial pressures SMEs face when adopting new technologies, the challenge now is to accelerate adoption throughout entire industries. Doing so will enable automation solutions to really move the needle on Singapore’s productivity and economic performance.