Original article by SPRING Singapore
1. SMEs must improve productivity and develop innovative products that can meet market needs more efficiently. This requires SMEs to build up their know-how, deepen their management capabilities and leverage on technology to stay competitive. The government is committing more resources to help SMEs embark on this journey. Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said this at the fourth Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) Conference today.
2. The five EDCs, located at the Chinese, Indian and Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation, have experienced business advisors to diagnose and provide information and advice to SMEs in areas like financial and human resources management, branding and overseas expansion. They also encourage SMEs to upgrade their core capabilities, leveraging on relevant government assistance programmes. Over the years, the number of SMEs that has tapped on the EDCs’ resources and facilities has risen five times, from about 2,400 in 2005 to some 12,000 last year.
3. “Companies today need to enhance their competitiveness in the marketplace and keep pace with rapid changes in technological innovation, market upheavals and changing consumer needs so as to ensure their survival and growth,” said Mr Hernaikh Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Director of the EDC@SICCI. “The EDCs play an important role in helping companies identify and implement relevant assistance programmes to address their needs. In the last two years, the EDCs have also stepped up efforts to help companies diagnose and address productivity gaps.”
4. In 2010, the EDCs introduced the Productivity Management Programme (PMP) to help SMEs learn the ‘how to’ of improving productivity. In 2011, the EDCs assisted some 2,200 SMEs on productivity.
5. One of them is Orchid Laundry. Mr Harry Toh, a Director of the company, said, “In 2011, our company reached a roadblock when we faced a manpower shortage. We knew the only way we could increase our capacity was with existing or fewer headcount. One option was to automate our laundry processes but we didn’t know how. We approached the EDC@SMa for productivity advice. The EDC advised us on the types of schemes available. We are now working with e2i and IDA on projects to enhance the capacity of our company.”
6. From April to September last year, the EDCs together with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) also conducted a total of 21 PIC Clinics to help some 300 SMEs understand the Productivity Innovation Credit programme,. The SMEs found the personalised consultation during the PIC Clinics useful as they could clarify questions on the coverage and tax benefits of the scheme.
7. Given the positive feedback, the EDCs and IRAS would be conducting the free PIC Clinics again this year. Starting from 3 May, the half-day clinics will be held every Thursday until the end of October at the five EDCs and IRAS premises. About 500 SMEs are expected to benefit from the clinics.
8. “The EDCs have been our key partners in reaching out to SMEs. In the past two years, they have expanded their assistance to helping SMEs raise productivity and tap tax benefits through the PIC. Moving forward, we will work even more closely with the EDCs as well as the Trade Associations and Chambers, and other key partners to reach out to more SMEs,” said Ms Chew Mok Lee, Group Director, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, SPRING Singapore.
9. The EDCs are part of the multi-agency EnterpriseOne initiative managed by SPRING with the support of 35 partners from the public and private sectors. Other than the EDCs, EnterpriseOne also includes a website which provides businesses with government information and e-services. Last year, the portal had about 6 million page views and more than 560,000 visitors.
10. SMEs looking for information on productivity can visit Productivity@Work, which is part of the EnterpriseOne website. Last year, there were about 280,000 page views and some 128,000 visitors at Productivity@Work. One self-help tool found in Productivity@Work is the Integrated Management of Productivity Activities (IMPACT) assessment to help enterprises diagnose their productivity gaps. Over 1,000 users have benefited from IMPACT Assessment Tool.
11. The annual EDC Conference, organised jointly by the five EDCs, is a platform for SMEs to share business management experience. At this year’s conference, SMEs gained insights into how to manage their cash flow, position their products and services more attractively, and seek opportunities in emerging markets. Two SMEs, Freshening Industries and MHC Asia Group, also shared their strategies for branding and improving productivity. More than 250 participants attended the conference, with the theme Go, Grow and Globalise – Staying Competitive in Challenging Times.