A host of measures have been introduced by Singapore with the aim of improving construction productivity in the week of 6 March. Particularly, S$19 million will be allocated to encourage SMEs to use digital technologies as well as S$120m for pushing modular techniques in new public-sector buildings.
In addition to this, the number of foreign construction professionals that companies can hire will be slashed beginning 2021, so that local talents can be prioritised.
Minister for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said during the Committee of Supply Debate 2020 that Singapore is on its way to reaching its 2020 target of 40 per cent take-up of “design for manufacture and assembly” techniques (DfMA). The long-term goal is to reach 70 per cent by 2025.
Mr Mohamad remarked, “This is an ambitious target but I think that we can achieve this by working together with the industry. We aim to make DfMA our default way of building.”
The Singapore’s Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund (PSCPF), which was established in 2019, will be responsible for disbursing the S$120 million funds. PSCPF promotes DfMA techniques such as advanced precast concrete systems, prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC), structural steel systems, and mass engineered timber.
In 2014, the country set its focus on DfMA as means of improving productivity, upon investing S$55 million into a productivity fund in addition to commissioning a host of “integrated construction and precast hubs”. These hubs are highly-automated, multi-storey factories which produce volumetric modules and precast concrete building elements.
Move towards digital
According to Mr Mohamad last week, there has been an increase in Singapore’s construction productivity by more than 17 per cent in the last 10 years.
The government believes that digitalisation is an important avenue to boost the productivity of industry. Mr Mohamad remarks that S$19 million would be allocated to encourage SMEs to adopt digital solutions which help complement basic building information modelling (BIM) software. This will then allow BIM to be adopted across engineers and architects as well as the whole construction supply chain.
The companies will receive guidance to determine their level of digital readiness and to look for helpful solutions like facilities management and site management software. They will also have access to 70 per cent funding for pre-approved solutions.
The country is also looking to reduce its dependence on foreign skills in the PMETs jobs.
Although the total PMET population have been increasing, the local share of PMETs in the construction sector fell for the past 10 years, Mr Mohamad noted.
The ministry will slash the ratio of foreign construction PMETs that companies can hire from the current 20 per cent to 18 per cent in January next year, and to 15 per cent in January 2023. This is to rebalance the proportion of local PMETs working in the construction sector.
Mr Mohamad added that “Our sector should be anchored by a skilled and competent local workforce, and our firms must also do their part”. Under the New ‘Professional Conversion Programmes’, mid-career entrants will be incentivised to join the construction sector.
“For example, a PMET from manufacturing could be reskilled as a production manager in a DfMA facility,” he concluded.