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Automation can help drive productivity and complement tight labour market

Dr Chong Yoke Sin, TechSkills Accelerator Committee Chairman, Singapore Computer Society | July 13, 2016
By integrating automation into business operatives, we are inching towards a less labour intensive, but more productive, economic landscape.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

A sustainable and successful business today is defined by how well it can leverage on technology to become more productive, and better differentiate itself from competitors. Successful organisations, regardless of their size or industry sector, must jump on the "digital transformation" bandwagon to ensure it remains relevant in a digital economy. This is because, with digitalisation, organisations can better optimise management decisions and accelerate development of new products and services. Much has also been discussed on the transformative effects that advancements in technology and connectivity are having on business operations, including how big data is providing organisations with customer insights, how mobile and cloud are changing the way businesses interact with customers and how innovative solutions are mitigating manpower constraints in the workforce.

While the upside of a "digital transformation" is alluring, technology should be regarded only as a complementary tool and not a be-all and end-all. Instead, organisations should encourage their employees to continually reskill and retrain so as to remain relevant in a digital economy.

Most of the everyday items around you have, at some point, passed through the "hands" of a machine - from a canned soft drink to the bed we're sleeping on. Similarly, our daily activities have increasingly become dependent on apps and technology, from booking a taxi to ordering food online. With the introduction of newer information and communication technologies, supported by Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) and robotics, automation is increasingly creeping into every aspect of our daily lives. Some refer this as the "Industrial Revolution 4.0". 

Earlier this year, the Republic formed a 30-member Committee on the Future Economy, which includes government officials and business leaders, to draw up plans for Singapore's economic future. Experts on the committee ranked "transformation to digital economy" as a top priority for the city-state. This digital blueprint is key to continued growth and it will also help businesses in Singapore seize opportunities in the right areas. The buzzword for the Budget 2016 was "transformation" - enterprises are encouraged to use automation to transform their business and industries and have been called on to leverage new technologies to set new standards. The underlying message to businesses is to focus on raising productivity to achieve quality growth as the Singapore economy restructures and readies itself for high value-added economic activities.

Automation as a driver of productivity

Set against the backdrop of a leaner and a higher value-added economy, one impetus to embracing new technologies is increased productivity. This is usually a result of a more streamlined business operation and empowered employees who have the right tools to boost their capabilities. For example, local start-up, Aitech Robotics and Automation, has developed a robotic prototype to make deliveries for food and beverage outlets. Such automation is expected to plug the manpower gap as Singapore moves up the economic ladder.


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