DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Opening Ceremony of Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific 2018

SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam | 16 October 2018

Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at the Opening Ceremony of Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific 2018 on 16 October 2018.


Your Excellency, Airlangga Hartarto, Minister of Industry, Indonesia
Your Excellency, Dr Ulrich Sante, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore
Dr Jochen Köckler, CEO, Deutsche Messe AG
Mr Aloysius Arlando, Chief Executive, SingEx Holdings
Ladies and Gentlemen,


It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at the inaugural Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific, ITAP, 2018. ITAP 2018 is the first Asia Pacific edition of Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair, bringing businesses, governments and experts together to exchange ideas and explore potential opportunities.

Industry 4.0: An opportunity for both firms and workers

Industry 4.0 is upon us. Robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing are transforming the way products are built, how operations are managed and how value chains are defined globally. 

Adidas’ two Speed Factories, for example, which are completely automated, use processes such as computerised knitting, robotic cutting and additive manufacturing to produce customized sneakers at three times the normal speed. Adidas is experimenting with new technologies still, with the aim of producing customised sneakers at 90 times the speed today.

Industry 4.0 holds immense opportunities globally, including here in the Asia Pacific region. It will create interconnected networks of suppliers, partners, and customers, spur innovation, and create new jobs, where humans work with machines to manage smart facilities.

It is a challenge because, one way or another, if we succeed in improving speed and efficiency, there will not as be as many jobs in manufacturing in the long term. There will be jobs, there will be much higher quality jobs, but they will not be as many. We’ve got to create jobs outside of manufacturing, so that it is still a job-rich future, quality jobs in every sector of the economy. And this is a major challenge for all countries.

Collaborating to harness Industry 4.0

But to harness the full potential of Industry 4.0, we need to look beyond traditional geographical and industry boundaries. There is huge value to be created by collaborating with each other - between nations, between different industries, and between the public and private sectors.

This spirit of collaboration is the dynamic that ITAP aims to promote. I will highlight three areas of collaboration to accelerate Industry 4.0 transformation in the region.

A common Industry 4.0 framework

The first step is to create a framework for companies, large and small, to evaluate where they stand today and their readiness for Industry 4.0.

We have developed the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, which is essentially a diagnostic tool to help companies to evaluate their Industry 4.0 readiness across the three building blocks of Technology, Process and Organisation.

We are also building an Index Partners Network, which brings together financial institutions, technology and training providers as well as international organisations, to address and support the diverse needs of manufacturers as they transform.  

These initiatives can be especially useful for SMEs. An example is Thong Siek, a food manufacturer of fish balls in Singapore -  an SME in a very traditional industry. Thong Siek has used the Index to identify initiatives such as paperless production and fully automated packing, and is tapping on the Index Partners Network to tie up with partners such as DBS and Auk Industries to help finance and execute their transformation.

Singapore is currently working with international organisations such as the Asian Productivity Organisation and the World Economic Forum to enable the Index to be used more widely in Asia.

A robust Industry 4.0 community

The Index Partners Network is also an example of a second priority, which is to build a robust Industry 4.0 community. Through ITAP, manufacturers, technology providers and academic and training institutions around the world and in the region will have a regular platform to explore opportunities with each other and exchange best practices.

We are concurrently working on other initiatives to catalyse partnerships to develop advanced manufacturing technologies:

  • Singapore’s (A*STAR) has been working together with leading pharmaceutical companies and universities to develop and enhance manufacturing technologies and processes for the sector.
  • Enterprise Singapore and the Economic Development Board are also partnering German Accelerator to create a Launchpad programme for Singapore-based startups to co-innovate with German Mittlestand companies, in areas such as IoT, 3D printing and Smart Energy.
  • JTC is working to strengthen the tripartite partnership between the public sector, businesses and technology enablers, so that SMEs in JTC’s estates and developments will have access to advanced manufacturing solutions and training programmes tailored to their businesses.

Finally, and very importantly, we must help workers benefit from the transformations brought about by Industry 4.0.

Here in Singapore, we have developed skills maps and training programmes with the industry to not just prepare but also to keep upskilling and reskilling our existing workforce. But as with all our Industry 4.0 initiatives, it is companies themselves that are the drivers. For eg, HP has worked with Nanyang Polytechnic to train 250 employees in additive manufacturing, data visualisation and data analytics over 18 months.


The new age of manufacturing, full of opportunities and promises, is on show at ITAP. We look forward to partnering more of you in this journey and I wish the event every success.