Many government initiatives to boost productivity include funding - such as for training - yet, it is a wonder that the productivity graph seems to be moving southwards.
The construction sector, in particular, seems to be immune to all the jabs, and remains unreactive to any outside help ("Push to raise skills, productivity in construction sector"; last Friday").
It is, perhaps, time to look within the industry and its mindset.
Productivity improvement is more than just installing a robot to cook fried rice.
It is about asking questions, sometimes silly ones too, about why this particular job needs to be done in a particular manner.
There is room for advancement without having to invest heavily, if one is motivated to challenge the status quo.
For close to a year now, I have been watching a Build-To-Order project in Ang Mo Kio.
At the work site, there is a foreign worker standing at the junction round the clock and his job is to direct traffic when a heavy vehicle enters.
The rest of his day is spent either standing around waiting or on his cellphone.
There are also two more such "traffic controllers" at the site.
Is there an opportunity for productivity improvement in this scenario? Are there many more chances if we closely observe the practices at the site? Will more questions lead to a creative solution?
If the company employed three Singaporean "traffic controllers" each with a minimum wage of $1,000 a month, would they be deployed in this manner?
Benedict Ng Chee Keen
This article was first published on November 4, 2014.
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