Transforming Worker and Company in the Age of New Technology

Vincent Khoo, 36, first joined small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) medical manufacturing company Fong’s Engineering and Manufacturing as a materials planner in 2008.

Today, 11 years later, he has risen the ranks to become a production manager who takes care of 32 workers. He looks after the production operations of the company and the daily deliveries that need to be met.

However, unlike many of his production manager counterparts in other SMEs, Vincent uses cyber technology to help him oversee and plan for production.

Previously, Vincent would base his decisions off data and information that were manually keyed in by operators. This, of course, was prone to human error. But now, computers do all the data collection, and Vincent can make better decisions by looking at clean and error-free data.

“In terms of operations, my work is the same. But I’m now aided by cyber technology that helps me make faster and better decisions,” he said.

Well, he’s not the only one in the company who is using technology. The company has been gradually transforming its operations since last year and will continue its transformation journey in stages.

Back in July 2019, one of the company’s production lines was transformed and is currently fully automated with robotics.

In fact, the company plans to have a smart factory that’s fully automated in the next three to five years. The factory will be able to run 24-hours with very minimal human intervention.

“The changes workers see is the upgrading of both machine and mindset. As for machines, we are progressively changing traditional machines from the old to new technology, especially data technology. And for workers, my colleagues and I have been training and upgrading to prepare to change our mindsets for new technology,” said Vincent.

The Role of Workers

To have an Industry 4.0 smart factory wouldn’t work without, as the Labour Movement puts it, Worker 4.0.

Fong’s project manager for technology and transformation Joseph Wong, who oversees the training of workers at the SME, said: “We want all our workers to embrace change. To do this, workers need to understand why they need to change. That’s why we are working on changing the mindsets of workers first. From there, we can cascade to what we want to do to transform.”

Currently, in-house training for workers has already begun, and the company is working with the Metal Industries Workers’ Union and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to further upgrade and upskill workers through a recently formed company training committee (CTC).

Workers Help Plug Skills Gap

Workers in the company have also done a self-assessment on their level of future-readiness. Using a survey, each worker graded themselves based on three levels regarding their adaptive skills, technical skills and technology skills.

“If they graded themselves as tier one, it means their skills are lagging; level two would indicate that the workers think they are okay and nothing critical needs to be done; level three would mean that the workers think that they’re already good at the skills needed,” said Joseph.

The results would then be validated by the heads of department, and the company would work towards plugging these skills gaps, making sure all its workers’ skills are raised in tandem with the transformation of the company.

“As workers, we know that company is upskilling us and making work easier and more productive with technology. The company has given workers a chance to pick up new skills to learn new things. We hope industry 4.0 will raise the company to a new level. If the company shines, we know that the workers will shine too,” said Vincent.

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