Opening Address by MOS Tan Kiat How at REDAS-KPMG State of Digitalisation Webinar

Monday, 16 November 2020

A very good morning to all of you. It is my pleasure to be here, and I thank REDAS and KPMG Singapore for organising this timely webinar on this important topic that is very close to all our hearts.

The entire Built Environment value chain has been hit hard by COVID-19, regardless whether you are a developer, consultant, main contractor, subcontractor, and or if you are in-charge of facility management or an estate agent. COVID-19 has impacted all of us. Construction work stopped during the Circuit Breaker period, and firms have had to make significant adjustments to their work practices. And the Government has leaned forward to assist the sector. We provided various financial assistance measures, such as the Jobs Support Scheme, waivers and rebates on foreign worker levy, and a $1.36 billion Construction Support Package. We have intervened significantly to help firms with contractual obligations. We have amended the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, so that no single party has to bear a disproportionate share of the burden.

By working together, we have made significant progress. First, we have significantly reduced the number of infections in Singapore, both in the community and the dormitories. The progress has allowed us to restart work and regain some normalcy in the construction sector. But we must stay vigilant. 

Second, firms have been able to restart work safely by leveraging digital technologies, which was a critical factor for success. For example, we launched the BuildSG COVID-Safe Platform, and paired with it commercially available digital solutions, so that firms can better manage worksite access and enable remote monitoring, and thereby keeping everyone safe and making sure work continues safely and normally at our worksites.

I recently visited the Woodlands North Coast project. Through the BuildSG COVID-Safe Platform, the main contractor, Lum Chang, implemented safe management measures such as segregation of work zones and entry point controls. With these efforts, most on-site works across Singapore have effectively resumed.

We have also distributed 450,000 BluePass tokens to migrant workers and local workers working in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors. This will allow us to improve contact tracing in a targeted manner, and close contacts of any COVID-19 cases can be quickly identified, and only targeted worksite areas will be required to stop work, if needed. This will help us minimise work disruptions and benefit everyone.

COVID-19 has accentuated the need for businesses to transform and step up our digitalisation efforts. We need all stakeholders in the Built Environment sector, public and private, to do so together. And we have a good foundation to build on. Integrated Digital Delivery, or IDD, is a key thrust of the Construction Industry Transformation Map, which was launched in October 2017. It integrates the entire building lifecycle and its various parties to enable better coordination of the design, production, delivery and installation of building modules. It saves time and reduces abortive work downstream. 

We have made some progress. Under the IDD implementation plan, we targeted to implement 40 to 60 IDD projects by 2020. Today, we have more than 150 firms involved in 48 projects that have deployed IDD throughout the building life cycle. The progress is very encouraging.

To complement IDD, we will adopt Design for Manufacturing & Assembly or DfMA, in short, which is another key thrust of the Construction ITM. It is a process to raise productivity across the entire value chain. For example, it allows us to move more construction work off-site where prefabrication of building components can be automated. Construction can become faster, cleaner, quieter, and of higher quality. For example, Teambuild, a local builder, achieved close to 37% site productivity improvement for Valley Spring @ Yishun, an HDB BTO project, by adopting DfMA. We are encouraging our builders to work with us to achieve a DfMA adoption target of 70% by 2025.

Earlier this year, we launched the Construction and Facilities Management Industry Digital Plan, or IDP, to help SMEs adopt digitalisation. As REDAS’ Mr Chia Ngiang Hong mentioned earlier, SMEs is an important segment of our Built Environment value chain. We will work together with you; we don’t want to leave anyone behind. SMEs account for the bulk of the companies in the Built Environment sector. It is essential that all our SMEs build up capabilities to plug into the IDD ecosystem. We will provide SMEs with a roadmap to assess their level of digital readiness, as well as funding for pre-approved solutions.

We have enhanced the IDP to provide more support for firms. In April this year, we increased the maximum funding support level from 70% to 80%, which means firms would only need to fork out 20% of the costs. As of October, 121 firms have adopted solutions under the IDP. The take-up rate has been promising, and we encourage firms to tap on these off-the-shelf solutions. 

We are also working with the industry to establish a Common Data Environment Standard. We will need the support of stakeholders to use the common standard and adopt the same data requirements for their projects. This will facilitate information flow across platforms and enable seamless project collaboration.

Together, we have also formed the Digitalising Built Environment Alliance for Action committee, under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce. It is led by the private sector. We will accelerate digitalisation through pushing for adoption of interoperable digital solutions.
In this regard, I am very heartened that REDAS and KPMG are developing the Developer-centric Dashboard, an initiative championed by the Alliance. Developers play an essential role in setting upstream requirements to facilitate the adoption of digital technologies downstream, so that the entire value chain can benefit. Through the use of the dashboard, developers can also effectively monitor project performance based on up-to-date information contributed by their value chain partners. This can help to achieve significant productivity gains and cost savings for everyone. I encourage everyone to implement IDD solutions like the REDAS Developer-centric Dashboard. 

Our efforts must also be underpinned by a skilled workforce. In September this year, we launched the Built Environment Skills Framework. Under the Digital Delivery Management track, the framework charts out career pathways, occupations and job roles, as well as existing and emerging skills required for digital delivery. We encourage firms to use the Built Environment Skills Framework to help with the redesign of job roles as we digitalise and create good jobs for Singaporeans.  

My personal aspiration is for young Singaporean talents to see opportunities and career pathways in the Built Environment sector as a promising one. To achieve this, we must all work together to redesign our jobs and rebrand our construction sector and Built Environment value chain. 

Some say COVID-19 is the crisis of our generation. But let us turn this into a window of opportunity for us to press ahead with our industry transformation efforts and emerge stronger.

On this note, I would like to thank the organisers again for inviting me to be part of today’s meaningful webinar. I wish to congratulate REDAS and KPMG for the signing of their Memorandum of Understanding, and I wish you an insightful exchange of views at the panel discussion later. Thank you very much.

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