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S$38m public-private partnership launched for hyper-personalised manufacturing

TO help firms achieve a "minimum order quantity of one", S$38 million will be invested in research and development for hyper-personalisation in manufacturing, under a public-private partnership announced on Tuesday.

Led by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, the initiative will develop solutions for hyper-personalisation and provide a platform for firms to test-bed these.

The centre will partner industry players to build a smart, scalable, automated factory line for fast-moving consumer goods, under A*Star's Model Factory Initiative.  

"Moving beyond standardised products and mass manufacturing, this will enable manufacturers to address specific customer needs," said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the opening of industry event Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (ITAP).

At ITAP, a demo version of the line shows how a customer's personalised order is fulfilled: A robot picks and packs the chosen items, the customer's name is printed on the bag, and an autonomous guided vehicle transfers it to a collection point.

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The actual new line will be located in Jurong Innovation District, which brings "the various nodes of the advanced manufacturing ecosystem together, into a single district to create a one-stop campus", said Mr Heng. 

Recently joining the Jurong Innovation District are German engineering firm Bosch Rexroth, United States pump machinery firm Flowserve, and German conglomerate Siemens.

Bosch Rexroth is setting up a regional training centre for advanced manufacturing, supported by SkillsFuture Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic, and JTC.

To be set up by the fourth quarter of 2020, the centre will train a pipeline of Industry 4.0 specialists who will be certified by the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. It will also develop training content with Singapore Polytechnic and collaborate with firms on proof-of-concept advanced manufacturing projects.

Separately, a new SkillsFuture Work-Learn Bootcamp for Engineer 4.0 has been launched for fresh graduates and mid-career workers. Upon completing the eight-week course, participants have the chance to be placed into engineering jobs.

The course is expected to train and place up to 200 workers over the next two years. The first run began on Oct 21 and the second will be conducted in the first quarter of 2020.

Beyond Singapore itself, "South-east Asia is well-positioned to be a regional manufacturing powerhouse, and the home for factories of the future", said Mr Heng.

But to realise this potential, Asean "must work together to attract companies to this region and build regional capabilities", he added.

"While countries have borders, companies do not. Many manufacturers have activities across countries in the region."

To that end, Singapore is aiming to bring its Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) to the region. The Singapore Economic Development Board is launching the SIRI Assessor Programme, consisting of a training course and a certification scheme for assessors to evaluate manufacturing facilities.

"We want to enable wider access to SIRI, so that it is not just a platform for Singapore and our companies, but also for the region," said Mr Heng.

Organised by SingEx and Deutsche Messe, the Industry 4.0-focused fair ITAP is in its second year, with 350 exhibitors from 30 countries.

Also announced at ITAP on Tuesday was a manufacturing alliance of five trade associations, facilitated by Enterprise Singapore, to help small and medium enterprises in their Industry 4.0 journey.

Formed by the Singapore Business Federation, Singapore Manufacturing Federation, Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association, SGTech, and Singapore Industrial Automation Association, the alliance will begin with a focus on precision engineering and food manufacturing.

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