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Digital transformation and smart technology to increase manufacturers' efficiency, says Capital Markets and IPO Services head – Singapore Business Review

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Joshua Ong also stated that companies should view the need to embed environmental, societal, and governance considerations in their overall strategies. 
Baker Tilly’s managing partner and head of Capital Markets and IPO Services, Joshua Ong, has spent more than two decades in the industry. He possessed more than 20 years of audit, consulting, and commercial financial control and accounting experience, including more than 10 years at international accounting firms. 
He also has extensive experience in several local and cross-border Initial Public Offerings (IPO), due diligence, merger and acquisitions projects, industry expertise, manufacturing, and education and training. Adding to his extensive experience, Ong specialised in publication, trading and distribution, investment holdings, hospitality and leisure, and shipping and freight forwarding. 
In an interview with Singapore Business Review, Joshua discusses the current trends in the manufacturing industry and how companies can adopt these in order to improve their processes.
What do you think are some of the main issues that Singapore manufacturers have faced in the previous year? How have they adapted to these challenges?
The pandemic disrupted the global supply chain and shipments, resulting in a shortage of components, which affected manufacturers’ production schedules. The Ukraine-Russia war aggravated supply chain pressures and drove up energy prices. Coupled with the challenge of manpower shortages and rising labour costs, manufacturers are faced with higher cost of operations. Manufacturers will have to diversify their supply base to avoid reliance on a single location for key components. Investing in automation and robotics can help companies cope with the loss of workers, improve worker safety, speed up operations, optimise product quality, and reduce operational costs. 
Digital transformation is now being embedded in the operations of many industries, with the manufacturing sector utilising this for operational efficiency. How do you think the industry can leverage the latest technologies and bring long-term profitability?
Digital transformation and smart technology increase manufacturers’ efficiency, productivity, and accuracy, changing how products are designed and produced. Virtual representatives of the physical manufacturing production lines can help identify potential issues in the manufacturing processes and streamline workflow, hence saving time and costs. With digitalisation in supply chain management and logistics, manufacturers can better plan and manage their resources and be more responsive and agile to changing market conditions and customer demands.     
As more industries are urged to employ ESG programmes in their operations, what do you think manufacturers can do to keep up? What do you think will be some of the challenges in this undertaking?
Companies should view the need to embed environmental, societal, and governance considerations in their overall strategies as one that will add long-term value to their organisations, not just for compliance with regulatory requirements. Manufacturers can identify ESG initiatives and targets that are aligned with their organisational goals. Due to the wide range of considerations and spectrum which ESG programmes cover, manufacturers need to have clear purpose statements and goals for their ESG initiatives. The need for the ESG goals to be measured and backed by quantifiable metrics and the ability to collate and report such ESG data reliably are factors to be addressed. 
What do you think are the lessons that manufacturers can take from the impact of the pandemic? How do you think they can incorporate these learnings to improve their processes?
The challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic forced manufacturers to be innovative in developing solutions to complex issues. Manufacturers learned that they need to be agile and the ability to re-engineer their production lines and customise their products will help them respond to changing trends and customers’ needs.  In addition, they will need effective ways to monitor and manage their supply chain to ensure business continuity and future growth. To avoid potential disruptions to their supply chain, manufacturers may need backup vendors and suppliers and also need to have visibility into all layers of their suppliers. The use of digital tools can help identify supply constraints and improve transparency and traceability. With the tight labour situation, investing in automation and robotics can help companies cope with labour shortages and improve worker safety, speed up operations, optimise product quality, and reduce operational costs. 
Where do you see Singapore’s manufacturing industry in the near future? Are there any key trends to watch out for in the coming years?
The manufacturing industry has been a key pillar supporting Singapore’s economy and contributing 20% to the country’s GDP. The aim is to maintain Singapore’s position as a leading global manufacturing hub, with a 10-year target to grow the sector by 50% by 2030 and a focus on advanced manufacturing. With the emphasis on intellectual property and not cost competitiveness, and the industry shifting towards low volume, high technology as the forward direction, manufacturers should be allocating their resources to research and development, product design, and improving product quality and precision.        
What were your main considerations in selecting the winners of this year’s Made in Singapore Awards and Designed in Singapore Awards?
I would like to congratulate all the companies whose products and services have put Singapore on the world map. I look for products or services that add value, address needs, or solve problems.
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