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Singapore's Aerospace Industry Transformation Map focuses on operational excellence, innovation in emerging tech and skill development

Singapore's Aerospace Industry Transformation Map focuses on operational excellence

The Singapore Government launched its Aerospace Industry Transformation Map (ITM) today, aiming to achieve a manufacturing value-added of S$4 billion and introduce 1,000 new jobs by 2020.

The aerospace industry is a key sector of growth for Singapore economy, with an average annual growth of 7% in value-added over the past 20 years. In 2016, the aerospace industry achieved a value-add of S$3.35 billion, and employed 21,000 people. Around 80% of these jobs are filled by locals, and the majority are in high-skilled job roles.

The press release cites market forecast from Beijing that Asia-Pacific is on its way to becoming the world’s largest aviation market, accounting for nearly 40% of the global fleet in 20 years. The strong growth in Asia-Pacific presents opportunities across the value chain in manufacturing, MRO and aftermarket industry segments.

In addition, aerospace companies are leveraging digital and advanced manufacturing technologies to transform their operations to improve productivity and offer new solutions. New market segments such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are also emerging. These industry trends are expected to transform existing aerospace jobs, and create new skilled job roles such as robotics engineers, data scientists and additive manufacturing (3D printing) design engineers.

Singapore has continued to maintain its status as Asia Pacific’s leading Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Hub, contributing to 10% of the global aerospace industry’s output for MRO. To further strengthen Singapore’s MRO sector, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has concluded an aviation maintenance agreement and an airworthiness certification agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) respectively. The two agreements are described as being significant steps towards reducing regulatory burdens and compliance costs for the aviation industry on both sides.

To further prepare Singapore to capture these growth opportunities, the ITM has identified three key thrusts: pursuing operational excellence, driving innovation in emerging technologies, and equipping Singaporeans with relevant skills. To help implement these changes in the industry, the government also aims to deepen ties with industry associations.

Enhancing productivity

In terms of operations and industry productivity, the Government is encouraging companies to invest in new equipment and automation to build best-in-class facilities, as well as deepen capabilities to drive process improvement.

For instance, home-grown aerospace company, Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing (SAM), is investing in advanced automation equipment, as well as software and engineering capabilities to upgrade existing lines to manufacture next-generation aircraft components. It expects productivity gains of up to 30% through increased efficiency and reliability of its manufacturing processes. SAM is also grooming a full-time team to support and lead continuous improvement.

Companies are also exploring new technologies to enable them to make better, data-driven decisions. ST Aerospace has embarked on a digital and productivity transformation initiative known as Smart MRO. It leverages data analytics to optimise internal processes and bring new value to customers through solutions like customised predictive maintenance. ST Aerospace will also adopt solutions such as drones for aircraft inspection and additive manufacturing for spare parts, which could improve cost efficiency and turnaround time.

Building Singapore’s innovation capabilities

Singapore continues to invest in its public research ecosystem. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) will be supporting the innovation pillar in the Aerospace ITM.

Over the last decade, A*STAR’s Aerospace Consortium has brought together leading aerospace companies to collaborate in more than 120 aerospace research projects. The programme has helped Singapore build a foundation of aerospace-related R&D capabilities in areas such as advanced materials, non-destructive inspection techniques, process automation, avionics and wireless communications.

Moving forward, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and A*STAR will encourage the development of industry-relevant technologies which can be brought to commercialisation in the coming years.

Possible focus areas include industrial internet-of-things (IIoT), additive manufacturing, data analytics for predictive maintenance and asset optimisation.

CAAS has been working closely with EDB to ensure robust and responsive regulatory support. CAAS has maintained a facilitative regime to nurture new industry segments whilst balancing the need to maintain safety standards. For example, CAAS and SPRING intend to set up an industry work group to develop technical standards for use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Singapore, responding to the rapid developments in this area.

Equipping Singaporeans with Relevant Skills

The Skills Framework for Aerospace, jointly developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and EDB, with inputs from industry stakeholders, unions, and education and training institutions, was also launched today.

 The Skills Framework allows individuals to explore career growth opportunities along or across four different tracks within the sector, covering 86 job roles. These tracks include Aircraft Maintenance, Fleet Maintenance, Aircraft Engine/Component Maintenance, and Manufacturing.

The Framework also provides key information on the sector, including current and emerging skills and competencies, and the relevant training programmes for each job role.

Examples of the emerging skills and competencies identified are Rapid Prototyping, Advanced Composite Failure Analysis, and Data Mining Techniques for Manufacturing Excellence.

Moreover, Singapore’s Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), together with research institutes and private training providers such as A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and TUM Asia, are collaborating with industry to curate and deliver bite-sized industry-relevant modules in emerging areas such as robotics, automation, data analytics and cyber security under the SkillsFuture Series.

Temasek Polytechnic will also be rolling out two new SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes (ELPs) in Robotics and Automation and IIoT, which are contextualised to the needs of the aerospace industry.

WSG has also put in place programmes such as the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), which aims to equip mid-career PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) for new careers in growth industries. The four existing PCPs have since benefited more than 60 mid-career PMETs. Two new PCPs for Aerospace Officers and Aerospace Executives have been launched.

Deepening Ties with Industry Associations and Unions

The Government will partner with Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) such as the Association of Aerospace Industries Singapore (AAIS) and Singapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers (SIAE), as well as unions, including those from the NTUC Aerospace and Aviation Cluster.

JTC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with AAIS, aerospace companies, as well as the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to collaborate on a new series of aerospace student outreach initiatives that aims to develop a pipeline of future-ready talent.

The initiatives are expected to benefit some 1,500 students from the aerospace engineering courses annually. The first collaboration will be the inaugural Aerospace Day @ SAP that will be held in April this year. This collaboration will benefit final-year students from polytechnics and ITE, providing them with the opportunity to visit the aerospace companies in SAP, exposing them to the working environment, and the career opportunities available in the industry.

[1] Roadmaps are being developed for 23 industries to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers. The ITMs are grouped into 6 broad cluster: Manufacturing, Built environment, Trade & connectivity, Essential Domestic Services, Modern services and Lifestyle. Most of the ITMs have been released.

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