The Straits Times The Straits Times $18m investment in tech research to help keep supply chains agile, secure

The Straits Times The Straits Times $18m investment in tech research to help keep supply chains agile, secure

SINGAPORE - Technology could help smaller companies deal with any major future disruptions in the supply of products or services.

By analysing data in the supply chain and running simulations of such incidents before they happen, companies can figure out what to do during an actual crisis, such as reallocating resources to where the disruption has taken place.

This is one of the potential outcomes of the new Supply Chain 4.0 Initiative announced on Monday (Nov 22) by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat as part of a series of announcements made on the first day of the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific (Itap) 2021 event.

Itap 2021, held at Singapore Expo, is expected to have 5,000 physical attendees over its three-day duration and is slated to be one of the largest gatherings in Singapore since the onset of Covid-19 early last year, said Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.

Among other things, the announcements at the event seek to give the manufacturing and supply chain sectors a technology and partnership boost.

The Straits Times The Straits Times m investment in tech research to help keep supply chains agile, secure

On the matter of disruptions, Mr Heng said Covid-19 exposed the weaknesses in supply chains, citing the challenges posed by factory lockdowns and border restrictions.

He also noted that vulnerabilities existed before the pandemic and will persist after it, giving as an example the Ever Given container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March and disrupted global trade.

But diversifying supply chains is not enough, said Mr Heng, adding: "We must also tackle the significant inefficiencies in the flow of goods, and the magnitude of documentation required as the cargo flows through the supply chain."

Efforts like the Supply Chain 4.0 Initiative can help. With a total investment of $18 million over two years, it comes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and is supported by two research partners - the National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The initiative aims to develop digital and automation solutions to meet the demands of businesses, and use technology to make supply chains more agile, resilient and secure.

In particular, it would allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - which might lack the resources - to tap such solutions and have better visibility of supply chains, things that only multinational corporations (MNCs) often have the means to access.

These solutions will be tested at A*Star's new Supply Chain Control Tower, which is housed in the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre in Jurong West.