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Opening Remarks by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs, Mr Chee Hong Tat, at Launch of Singapore Motor Workshop Association Training Academy

07 Dec 2020 Speeches

Mr Mike Keh, President of SMWA,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1.     A very good morning to all. Thank you for inviting me today to join you for the launch of the Singapore Motor Workshops Association (SMWA) Training Academy.
2.     I first took up the role of Advisor to SMWA when I was at the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI). Together with my colleagues from the MTI Family, we have been engaging the motor workshop industry and working closely with stakeholders to support the development of the industry.
3.     Having moved to the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in July, I am happy to accept SMWA’s invitation to continue to serve as your Advisor. 
Embracing Changes in the Automotive Landscape
4.     With close to one million vehicles on our roads, motor workshops play a vital role in serving the needs of vehicle owners, and in so doing provide for a more pleasant driving environment that allows our roads to be more free-flowing.
5.     Automotive technologies are advancing rapidly, and many vehicle manufacturers are working to integrate an even wider array of advanced features and sensors into their vehicles.
6.     There are also rapid advances in clean vehicle technologies. As battery range improves and costs drop, major car manufacturers are racing to build electric car models that will eventually vie with conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in terms of both price and popularity.
7.     Singapore’s vision is for all vehicles to run on cleaner energy by 2040. Many of these will be electric vehicles (EVs). To achieve this goal, we have to start preparing much earlier, starting from now. We have introduced the EV Early Adoption Incentive, and enhanced Vehicular Emissions Scheme, which together reduce the cost of EVs by up to $45,000. We are also expanding our national EV charging network, starting with a pilot tender for more than 200 public carparks, just announced on 30 November 2020. This includes charging lots in Sin Ming AutoCity, where we are gathered today.
8.     These are the initial steps by our agencies and industry players. We need to go further to encourage the adoption of EVs and to develop our charging infrastructure, and we will do so.  

Equipping Workers for the Transition to Cleaner Vehicle Technologies

9.     Clean vehicle technologies will require the development of a new set of specialised skills and knowledge among our workers to handle and service such vehicles. As the trade association representing automotive workshops in Singapore, SMWA is well-positioned to work with its members to transform the industry by equipping technicians with the relevant skills and knowledge, to enable workshops to maintain a high level of service.
10.    On this note, I welcome SMWA’s initiative to launch the SMWA Training Academy. As the first purpose-built facility dedicated to the upskilling of automotive technicians, it will develop and conduct specially designed training programmes for motor workshop technicians, to build capabilities within the industry and support its transformation. 
11.    With about 350 automotive workshops located within Sin Ming Industrial Estate, the strategic location of the SMWA Training Academy within Sin Ming AutoCity will enable close synergies and cross-cutting collaborations between the academy and industry, allowing insights from the trade to inform what is taught, and to bring lessons from classrooms into workshops. 
12.    SMWA is developing a course focusing on autotronic and EV technology. This is a good start. I encourage the Association to organise more courses to prepare our workers for the transition to cleaner vehicle technologies.
13.    Through a networking session organised by JTC, SMWA has also connected with Trans Eurokars to plan for upcoming courses. In the first quarter of next year,  Eurokars will host a workshop-cum-learning journey for SMWA’s members, where Eurokars will share their initiatives on digital marketing, branding and customer experience to build the ‘workshop-of-the-future’, and inspire member workshops to move up the value chain.
14.    I would also like to commend SMWA’s efforts to partner ESG, the Singapore Standards Council and key stakeholders to launch the Code of Practice for Automotive Workshops, with support from the Singapore Manufacturing Federation – Standards Development Organisation. This is a voluntary set of guidelines on technical competencies, workplace safety and fair business practices, which will be very useful in uplifting the sector and providing customers with greater assurance when they go to workshops that comply with these standards.
Empowering Industry Transformation to Meet Future Challenges
15.    To stay relevant, the automotive service industry must continue to transform itself and leverage new technologies. It is also important to invest in upskilling of workers and digitalisation of work processes, so that your workers can adapt to the changes.
16.    A good example of an automotive SME transforming itself through digitalisation is Ricardo Auto Centre. Founded by Mr Ricardo Soh, it started off as a car servicing and repair workshop located at a petrol station. Ricardo Auto embarked on digitalisation in 2017 to enhance efficiency and attract new talent. They use cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to keep track of customers’ servicing schedules and communicate with them. They have also implemented an online booking system, with auto-reminders to reduce “no shows”.
17.    To expedite the processing of online car loan applications, Ricardo will be tapping on the National Digital Identity (NDI) to allow pre-filling of customers’ data from MyInfo. This will eliminate the need for customers to submit hardcopy documents.
18.    Ricardo is also working on integrating their core functions and digitalising key business processes, from customer relationship management, to vehicle sales, workshop services, inventory, finance, insurance, online marketing and HR operations. When fully developed, Ricardo aims to market this solution to other workshops to help them embark on the digitalisation journey.  
19.    Another example of an automotive SME which continues to transform itself and embrace new technologies is BVO Automotive. BVO was founded by Mr Sim Chin Thye as a car servicing and repair workshop in Sin Ming Industrial Estate, before moving to Sin Ming AutoCity. The company, which also helps customers process insurance claims, uses a computer diagnostic system to better assess car damages and repair needs. With the growth in hybrid cars, BVO has seized the opportunity to invest in training its technicians in the skills and knowledge to service hybrid vehicles. Having built up expertise in handling hybrid vehicles, BVO has also branched into the maintenance of electric vehicles.
20.    While electric and hybrid cars currently form a small proportion of our vehicle population, it is a matter of time before they become more widespread in Singapore. This is the future for the automotive industry, and we must start to prepare now so that we can stay ahead of the curve.  
21.    I look forward to SMWA playing a pivotal role in working with public and private stakeholders to build capabilities and prepare our workers for the transition to a cleaner and greener transport sector. By bringing our collective strengths together, we can face future challenges with greater confidence.  
22.    I congratulate SMWA on the launch of its Training Academy and the Code of Practice for Automotive Workshop, and wish everyone good health, happiness and success in the year ahead.  Thank you.