Collaboration key to transformation

Goal to transform industries requires innovation and strategic partnerships

The world is transforming as we speak.

The fusion of physical and cyber systems brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution has seen artificial intelligence and machine learning become increasingly ubiquitous.

Companies today are moving with the trends, embracing disruption and developing employees.

The Government also saw the urgency to transform industries in Singapore. Announcing a $4.5 billion industry transformation programme last year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also the chairman of the Future Economy Council, said Singapore's enterprises and industries would be transformed through innovation.

Today, we co-exist harmoniously with technology.

At a Pittsburgh hospital I visited in the United States, autonomous mobile robots co-exist with doctors, nurses and patients, relieving hospital workers of menial labour.

They are in use in more than 140 hospitals in the US with 700 units deployed in more than 200 customer sites globally.

The same robots, whose maker we have since acquired, will soon automate material movement in Singapore at three hotels to streamline the laundry supply chain process.

At ST Engineering, we have embraced digital technologies for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, through digitisation and collaborative robots.

These include robots that help with the sanding and polishing of airframe parts, additive manufacturing and data analytics solutions so customers can enhance the efficiency and efficacy of their operations.

Mr Heng has signalled transformation to be a team effort, calling for the support of leaders from industry, the Singapore Business Federation and trade associations and chambers to drive initiatives that can level up companies and industries.

The set-up of Global Innovation Alliance - with the recent launch in Beijing, China - further highlights the need for collaboration in evolving any industry.

If the future is constantly being disrupted, it follows that companies that can innovate would be better positioned for growth as they are more agile and market-ready.

Business innovations are increasingly being seen as having a positive impact on society because they are not just drivers of economic growth but also catalysts to solve society's most pressing problems. If businesses begin with the intent to solve problems, they would be able to introduce needed innovations .

Strategic partnerships can help speed ideas to market, by reducing the time taken to iterate prototypes, especially for solutions that require multidisciplinary expertise.

Sustaining innovations are also important for "upgrades" of products and services that meet customers' needs and demands, and are what the market needs to level up any industry progressively.

While much advancement has been made in industry transformation, there are still gaps in technologies that limit scalability and adaptability.

Opening our doors to technology partnerships and co-creation as well as driving collaboration will help support the nation's quest in becoming a future-ready economy.

The writer is president and chief executive of ST Engineering and a board member of JTC Corporation. This article appeared in The Business Times yesterday.