Learning the best way to encourage productivity

For the past year, labour MP Melvin Yong has been visiting electronics manufacturing plants all over the island, gaining insights about productivity.

Mr Yong, the executive secretary of the 65,000-member strong United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries, now hopes to share these ideas with other industries which need help in the upcoming Budget debate.

In an interview with The New Paper at NTUC centre yesterday, Mr Yong said that leveraging on technology to improve productivity is "part of the DNA" of these workers.

He said: "Productivity improvement is apparent and key to these companies because it has a direct impact on their output. It is a culture."

Mr Yong added that the floor workers are usually the ones who give suggestions on improving productivity and the management are usually willing to listen and implement them, which encourages even more suggestions.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, export-oriented industries like manufacturing tend to fare better in productivity compared with domestic-oriented industries like retail, food and beverage, and construction.

From 2010 to 2015, the productivity growth of export-oriented industries was 3.2 per cent, compared with 0.2 per cent in domestic-oriented businesses.

Mr Yong thinks that these domestic-oriented industries can learn some "good practices" from the manufacturing sector.

In addition, he suggested funding to be targeted at sectoral projects - instead of individual companies - and to involve property owners or retail chains for industry transformation.

Other ideas include a greater drive for asset pooling by identifying areas of collaboration for clusters of companies with similar products or services.

Another suggestion is the identification of "champion companies" within each sector, possibly MNCs, on productivity projects to drive changes in their respective sectors.

In a blog post yesterday, Mr Yong stressed the importance of learning new skills to remain competitive and helping companies stay competitive.

He raised the example of Ms Wang Mui Sin, 54, who has worked at Yokogawa Electric Asia for the past 36 years and has "adapted"with the electronics industry.

Ms Wang joined the company as a machine operator, was transferred to the IT department after going through training and is now a production planner.

She told TNP in Mandarin yesterday: "Change is always difficult and I was scared that I would not do a good job at first.

"But times have evolved, it is important to be willing to change your mindset or you could be replaced."


This article was first published on January 7, 2017.
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