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Productivity through technology

Productivity through technology

ENHANCING and improving productivity is key for manufacturing companies hoping to maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

Often, this is achieved by reducing input like capital and material, by streamlining processes, or by increasing the value of output through the innovative use of technology.

The latter has been the focus of the Manufacturing Productivity Technology Centre (MPTC) at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

The first of its kind in Singapore, the centre encourages manufacturers to embrace technologies that will drive productivity and efficiency.

In an industry beset by manpower crunch, rising business costs and growing competition, the MPTC also recognised the need for effective solutions to help manufacturing companies reduce manpower reliance and increase competitiveness.

Through the Collaborative Industry Projects (CIP) initiative, it worked with Spring Singapore to roll out five productivity improvement solutions that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector could easily implement.

These solutions were: the High Mix, Low Volume (HMLV) solution, a Lean Implementation solution, an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) assessment, an Item Management and Tracking System (IMTS), and a Field Worker Identification and Tracking System(FIT).

The CIP ran from July 2013 to January this year, and benefited 116 SMEs.

Measuring productivity

Keystone Cable was one of the SMEs that raised its productivity with this CIP.

A leading manufacturer of cables, Keystone Cable was established in 1990 and specialises in the manufacture and supply of extra low, low and high voltage cables.

The company, however, lacked an effective method to measure the productivity of its machines.

Operators were manually recording the production data of each machine, including its operation status and occurrences of stoppage, in a time-consuming process that was not always accurate.

In November last year, Keystone Cable worked with SIMTech to conduct an OEE assessment and productivity improvement program.

OEE data collection software was installed on three of the company’s production machines, which analysed the machines’ productivity on a weekly basis.

Common machine stoppage reason codes were also programmed into the equipment, enabling operators to quickly indicate the cause of each stoppage.

Says Mr Derek Zhu, 37, Keystone’s senior strategy and finance manager: “The software automatically collects and analyses the machine productivity data. Based on the analysis, our management team is now able to make informed decisions to improve the overall effectiveness of the machines.”

By the time the project was successfully completed in January this year, Keystone Cable had seen a 59 per cent reduction in machine setup time and a 29 per cent drop in machine breakdown time.

The OEE solution also enabled its production engineers to respond quickly to production issues, encouraged machine operators to take ownership of the production process, and fostered better teamwork.

Moving forward, Keystone Cable plans to implement the OEE software in all its machines for total visibility that will help the company better utilise its equipment.

Evolving practices

After four decades as a major stockist and supplier of chemicals to Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region, Piaget Chemicals and Manufacturing saw the need to transform its working culture and processes.

“We were at a stage where we had to evolve. Practices that have been serving us well for the last 40 years may not be able to sustain us for future growth,” says Ms Chua Ka-Bei, 37, Piaget Chemicals’ manager of business development.

Faced with a shrinking market and increased competition, the company wanted to make better use of its existing resources and take on new techniques for a breakthrough in productivity.

Says Ms Chua:“We wanted to empower everyone in the company to embrace changes and new technologies.”

From June to August last year, Piaget Chemicals underwent a Lean Implementation programme with SIMTech. Seventy per cent of the project was funded by Spring Singapore.

The programme trained Piaget Chemicals’ staff and management in Lean management techniques, emphasising the importance of innovation and collaboration in building a creative culture.

At weekly meetings, the company discussed areas for improvement, while offering a casual yet official channel where its staff could air issues and share opinions.

Steps were taken to improve Piaget Chemicals’ operational efficiency too.

A solution was brainstormed to store, organise and keep track of the company’s growing inventory of packaging materials, reducing and neatening the floor space required for storage.

Its order-to-cash process was also streamlined by converting all paper statements into electronic statements.

Surveying the company’s productivity gains at the close of the project, Ms Chua says: “It was worth taking time to identify pain points and investigate ways of overcoming them.”

She is also impressed by SIMTech’s commitment to helping SMEs achieve greater productivity.

“SIMTech supports SMEs with tailor-made solutions for targeted industries. SMEs are exposed to technologies that they otherwise may not be aware of, and have access to highly effective and committed consultants,” she says.

By Min Chen

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction

Collaborative Industry Projects (CIP)

The Collaborative Industry Projects (CIP) was launched during the 2013 Budget to incentivise industry-wide and cross-sector collaborations between SMEs and industry partners to devise solutions for the common challenges faced by SMEs.

This solution has to look at optimising resources, streamlining work processes or exploring new business opportunities.

Participating SMEs are eligible for up to 70 per cent funding support for qualifying development or adoption costs.

Visit for more information on how your project can benefit from the CIP

Last Updated on : 05 Jan 2016