A "live" shop floor where manufacturers can test operations before rolling out changes at their own factories opened yesterday.
The shop floor is a key feature of a new model factory that will host demonstrations and hands-on training for companies – especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – that want a taste of the future of manufacturing.
Industry partners will also be able to use the production line as a research and development test bed.
The 6,500 sq ft factory at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SimTech) in one-north is part of the model factory programme announced in this year’s Budget debate.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon said at the opening yesterday: "The model factory will allow SMEs to experience digitalisation technologies first-hand in a learning environment, without affecting their existing business operations.
"This will enable participating SMEs to experiment and try out new ideas that could increase the competitiveness of their businesses.
The facility will also have a German twin in a "learning factory" set up in 2012 at a technical university in Braunschweig.
Singapore is the most comprehensive aerospace MRO hub in Asia, accounting for 10 per cent of global MRO output, according to the Economic Development Board.
Under a deal signed yesterday, users here and in Germany will be able to explore advances in areas like energy management and industrial symbiosis, where factory waste serves as raw material for other processes. They may eventually be able to view real-time information from both facilities at either end.
German Ambassador Ulrich Sante said, at the launch of the one-north model factory, that society must be ready for the sea change taking place in manufacturing.
"The model factory sets the basis to be able to do exactly that, making students, researchers, SMEs, large enterprises, decision-makers in government and NGOs fit for the challenges of Industry 4.0."
Dr Koh noted that the factory sector is highly globalised and competitive: "The Government cannot achieve industry transformation through just technology alone. Partnerships, both international and local, are important to amplify the reach of our initiatives and generate more benefits for our companies."
Mr Thomas Wong, manager at waste-paper management firm Impetus Conceptus, said the equipment in the model factory reminded him of paper recycling plants in Europe, where 100,000 sq ft behemoths, three times the size of his own facility, run with one-third the manpower.
"In my industry, I am not sophisticated enough," he said. But Mr Wong’s tour of the model facility has redoubled his interest in raising productivity with automation. "Now it’s just about me adopting it and saying that it’s time we change," he said.
A*STAR will open its second model factory next year, this one at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre off Jalan Bahar.