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Global Business Report Interview with Wayne Yap, Executive Director of ASPRI

01 Mar 2021
Could you give us a brief understanding of how has the pandemic impacted the industry? The Coronavirus outbreak in Singapore had a devastating effect on the Process industry. As infections spread rapidly across the foreign workers (FWs) community living in dormitories, an order went out in April to stop work. The number of Process workers on Jurong Island was significantly reduced along with decreased manning levels that minimally allow for safe operation of chemical plants. Both large CAPEX and smaller scheduled projects had to be stopped with immediate effect, which naturally led to a downturn in the industry. How has ASPRI supported its over-500 members during this period? ASPRI continues to be an active nexus for members to receive industry specific advisories, and more importantly, as a helpdesk for members to quickly seek clarification on newly enacted measures and for government agencies to interface. In a sign of solidarity and support, ASPRI’s 12th Executive Council provided a one-off, 50% annual membership subscription fee rebate for all existing members. During the circuit breaker, our training division, ASPRI-Institute of Process Industry (ASPRI-IPI) had to cease classroom-based trainings. However, learning could not stop. In May 2020, ASPRI-IPI launched a series of free e-learning modules on IPI Connect App and partnered with Bolster Safety (by enabling 10,000 user licenses) to allow workers to refresh safety knowledge and refine their craftsmanship all in the comfort of their own homes. What have been the most prominent milestones that ASPRI has achieved in the last two years? We are proud to share that since 2017, we are close to having conducted one million hours of trainings within our Training Centre. This showcases the association's efforts and commitment to continuous up-skilling for increased productivity and safety of the industry. Despite the pandemic, we have continued to advocate the importance of skills upgrading and managed to pivot onto e-learning. We are very encouraged by members’ response and participation. ASPRI-IPI will continue to enhance our digital offerings to promote wider adoption of e-learning modules for the Process industry. How do you think the pandemic is influencing the digitalization process in Singapore? This year, digitalization has been thrown into the spotlight and it has embarked on an upward trend.  Companies have moved fast to keep up with their peers in embracing digital solutions not previously considered. Because employers were no longer able to distribute salaries as cash or checks, more companies jumped on the bandwagon of digital payments. The fact that e-payments are becoming commonplace marks a fundamental shift and an upward move in the value chain. At the workers’ level, the penetration of smartphones and higher internet data have massively improved in the past year in response to new needs. Every migrant worker in Singapore now has a 4G enabled smartphone; the broader effect is that the entire workforce is now connected over a common platform. At the industry level, ASPRI has worked with Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on an Industry Digital Plan (IDP) for the Process sector. When completed in 2021, the IDP will provide Process sector companies of various sizes with an easy-to-use, step-by-step guide to the digital solutions to adopt at each stage of growth and help identify opportunities to boost growth and productivity. Is the demand for workers being met in Singapore, considering existing quotas on foreign workers and recent lockdowns? Post lockdown, there has been a strong demand for foreign workers, however, due to existing border restrictions the flow of foreign workers into Singapore is impeded. In a bid to mitigate these effects, ASPRI has embarked on a Change of Employer initiative with the Ministry of Manpower to help connect displaced workers with new employers, without having to leave Singapore. What is your view on how the industry may be performing on its path to recovery in the next 12-24 months? At the macro level, the pandemic had severely impacted refining due to slashed fuel demand. The ensuing supply chain disruptions have hit petrochemicals production, plant maintenance and planning, resulting in cut running rates or idle plants to adjust to lower consumption and adapt to new demand profiles. The local Process industry will experience a challenging period ahead. However, these challenges come with the opportunity to reconfigure work, by evaluating demand trends and optimizing operations. Overall, I believe the current downturn will continue to cast its shadow for another two-three years. Do you have any final words to share with your stakeholders? My advice to the industry is to look back at the lessons learned in this period: industry’s over-reliance on foreign workers and sub-par productivity levels, with a view change the way we work and emerge stronger from this pandemic. https://www.gbreports.com/interview/wayne-yap

Retail, construction, arts and F&B firms welcome wage support, but need more help

22 Feb 2021
SINGAPORE - Employers in the food, retail, arts, and construction sectors welcomed the Government's plans to extend wage support for them until June, but many feel it is not enough. Safe management measures and a labour crunch caused by border restrictions mean they will continue to feel the pinch.   Although theatres are now open, shows are still being staged at a loss because safe distancing measures.   Mr Ivan Heng, the founder and artistic director of home-grown theatre company Wild Rice, said the 10 per cent wage subsidy "does not reflect the dire reality of the situation".   The arts scene in Singapore has been battered by the pandemic. Theatre groups, for instance, are still reeling from the closure of theatres for several months last year. Although theatres are now open, shows are still being staged at a loss because safe distancing measures mean that even a sold-out run will have only a fraction of the seats filled. Wild Rice @ Funan, for instance, has been running at less than 25 per cent capacity.   "This has a huge impact on ticket revenue. There's also a fatigue for digital offerings. So companies have hardly any means of earning any income," Mr Heng said.   He added that in theatres and concert halls, the authorities could consider relaxing safe distancing restrictions. "Compared to the crowds on public transport, malls, markets, restaurants and not forgetting cinemas, do theatres pose such a danger to public?"   He said: "Jobs and livelihoods are at stake... If the situation persists, the industry will not recover."   Over at the construction industry, firms are resuming Covid-delayed projects but face challenges such as manpower and cash flow issues, supply chain disruptions, as well as rising material and manpower costs.   The industry relies heavily on foreign workers, who do not qualify for the JSS. HSL Group's chief executive Charles Quek said while he is glad wage support for local employees would be extended at 10 per cent, till June, he had hoped for more foreign worker levy rebates, which had been given out previously.   "The wages for workers - whether it's foreign workers, S pass workers or even local workers - are going up, because of lack of manpower in the industry. Material prices have also shot up, and dormitory and other associated costs have gone up too because of the safe management measures." HSL Group has 17 subsidiaries in South-east Asia, including eight in Singapore.   The construction industry relies heavily on foreign workers, who do not qualify for the JSS.   He noted that productivity of his group is down by at least 20 per cent owing to the manpower shortage and safe management measures, and added that he has also raised workers' wages by 10 to 15 per cent in a bid to retain them. Mr Quek said the group will likely reduce its exposure to long-term, big projects that run into the hundreds of millions. "I think those will be very risky. With an expected continued manpower crunch, I think costs will get higher. There's also the risk of a second wave (of infections). I don't know how many companies would be able to withstand another shock like that."   Meanwhile, the Singapore Retailers Association's president R. Dhinakaran said many retailers had hoped for at least 25 per cent wage support, since overheads such as rent in many cases remain the same but sales are still down. Many firms are "aggressively marking down" their goods to get more cash flow to meet these overheads, and this is not sustainable.   Food and beverage operators had hoped the JSS would last till the vaccination of Singapore's population was complete, the Restaurant Association of Singapore said. A spokesman noted that sales across the industry are still 50 to 80 per cent of pre- Covid levels, adding that safe management measures had effectively cut seating capacity by 30 to 40 per cent.   But the latest wage support would "no doubt help the forward-looking F&B brands who have pivoted their business model to the new normal", such as those that stepped up on online marketing and deliveries, or introduced virtual brands and ready-to-cook products.   News of the wage support was a "pleasant surprise" to Foodtech F&B Ventures' chief executive Serene Ang, whose company runs four restaurants and over a dozen kiosks across the island.   The cost savings from earlier tranches of wage support had helped the firm to hire more locals and train existing. Some firms fear they won't survive without Jobs Support Scheme, others pin hopes on taking new directions.   She said the cost savings from earlier tranches of wage support had helped the firm to hire more locals and train existing staff. It also increased staff wages. She said: "The whole industry is very thirsty for staff, since foreigners can't come in as freely as before.   "A part-time ground service crew member working 36 to 40 hours a week used to be paid $1,500 a month, but I'm now paying up to $1,800 just to keep them there. The Malaysian workers stuck here are in greater demand than ever." Ms Ang is cautious about expanding and said she will think twice about renewing some outlets' leases, especially if the company can secure cheaper rent elsewhere.   RAS' spokesman said the shortage of suitable manpower in F&B is a "major constraint that needs to be further addressed". "We hope the Government will continue to monitor and make adjustments to relevant policies if the situation does not improve in spite of higher wages and enhanced working conditions."

Foreigners still needed in clean energy manual roles

27 Nov 2020
EVEN with a change in the energy sector's skill needs and job scopes, the reliance on foreign workers to fill low­ wage, manual roles is unlikely to change in the near term. Charles Quek, president of the Association of Process Industry (Aspri), told The Business Times the use of such foreign labour will likely stay high. Among Aspri's 543 member companies, Mr Quek estimates 15 per cent of workers are S Pass holders and 50 to 60 per cent are work permit holders.   The "hands-on" type of work they do is unlikely to appeal to locals and they command relatively low salaries of S$800 to S$l,000 a month, he said. Work in the process sector in eludes the construction and maintenance of specialised equipment and machinery for petrochemical, pharmaceutical and other plants.   To be sure, two lawyers from King & Wood Mallesons, which has an infrastructure focus, suggested energy jobs in Singapore will move away from manufacturing and production. "There may be less demand for lower paid foreign workers, and relatively more demand for these more highly skilled (and probably higher paid) workers," said Michael Lawson and David Phua, who expect more services roles to come on board.   'There's going to be a need for the foreseeable future to have the capability to undertake manual tasks" despite a pivot to renewables, said Greg Murray, Engie Asia-Pacific's chief human resources, communications and corporate social responsibility officer. Two-thirds of the energy company's Singapore headcount is field based, with Mr Murray noting that many blue-collar positions are filled by work permit and S Pass holders.   With locals offering skill sets "at the higher end on the value chain", such as in engineering and finance, he expects a reliance on foreign manpower for lower paid, manual tasks to continue "certainly for the medium term, probably five to 10 years".

Jurong Island, where nature and industry coexist

09 Nov 2020
​​​Jurong Island is getting greener — literally.    Singapore touts itself as a garden city where lush greenery is woven into its urban tapestry.    The city state is now taking the leap to become a “City in Nature”, and one of the ways it is doing so is intensifying the amount of greenery within its industrial estates.   To that end, National Parks Board (NParks) and JTC will be adding about 100 hectares of new green spaces such as parks and roadside greenery in industrial estates by 2030. Close to 170,000 trees will also be planted within these estates over the next 10 years.    Jurong Island, a cornerstone of Singapore’s energy and chemicals industry, is one of the industrial estates getting a green makeover.    A green partnership    Called the Greening Jurong Island project, the biggest greening initiative on the island aims to transform the energy and chemicals hub into one filled with greenery. To do so, JTC and NParks have partnered with companies on Jurong Island, plus the Association of Process Industry (ASPRI) and its members.   34,000 new trees will be planted on Jurong Island by 2022 ​​​​This project is much more than redecorating exercise. An objective is for JTC and the Jurong Island community to co-create an industrial estate that is more conducive and attractive to the businesses that operate within it, while laying the groundwork for future sustainability efforts in Jurong Island.    “By planting more trees, we create pockets of greenery and biodiversity on Jurong Island, making ​​​it an eco-friendly workplace environment that adds to the well-being of workers there,” explains Cindy Koh, JTC’s Director of Energy and Chemicals.   She also highlights the importance of having the Jurong Island community on-board: “Many manufacturers have been stepping up on their commitments to sustainable actions – however, so much more can be achieved when the community comes together. Such collective effort goes beyond what each company can do on its own.”   The companies and employees on Jurong Island, as well as ASPRI and its members, have raised over $740,000 to support the cause.    Over 70 organisations from the Jurong Island community have supported the greening initiative to-date. ​Mr Charles Quek, President of ASPRI, said, “ASPRI, together with our members, are happy to play our part towards the greening efforts in our industrial estates. The Greening Jurong Island initiative helps to reinforce the concept of sustainability and will go a long way to make the island a more attractive workplace for our members.”    ExxonMobil, the largest single contributor to the initiative, is supporting 400 trees through a $120,000 donation.    Mr Gan Seow Kee, Chairman and Managing Director, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd said, “The Jurong Island Greening Initiative provides us an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the environment and community where our operations are located. We recognise the vital role that trees have in the environment, and how they also help make Jurong Island a more attractive place to work.”   Picking the perfect trees   Close to 13,000 trees have been planted in the estate since March 2019, and the eventual goal is to have 34,000 new trees planted by 2022.    Tree species were carefully selected for planting on the island. NParks’ expertise in flora and fauna has been invaluable to this project. The team’s experts are responsible for choosing ideal species of trees that would not only survive, but thrive, amidst the industrial backdrop of Jurong Island. The tree species have been curated and chosen for their hardiness and drought tolerance, as well as their ability to add shade, colour and vibrancy to the island.    Before planting the trees, teams from JTC and NParks analysed ground conditions, then planned strategic planting techniques to ensure the well-being and longevity of the trees on the island. After thoughtful deliberation, they decided that planting the trees in a multi-tier manner — mimicking a forest structure — would be an ideal choice to add diversity, vibrancy and colours to Jurong Island’s streetscape.   Creating a luscious, green island for everyone ​ With one-third of the project’s trees planted so far, Jurong Island’s occupants will soon see — and feel — the impact of the additional greenery.   With more trees, there is now more shade on the island. And because the trees can mitigate the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect — a situation that occurs when an area has a dense concentration of pavement, buildings and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat — everyone will benefit from cooler temperatures.    On a broader level, the fruits of this partnership will contribute to Singapore’s One Million Trees movement, which aims to plant a million trees across Singapore by 2030 and bring the therapeutic effects of greenery to even more corners of the country.    ​“This project is essential to realising our vision of integrating nature in our industrial spaces and creating more attractive environments for communities. By aspiring to make Jurong Island a much greener industrial park, we’re also strengthening Singapore’s distinctiveness as a liveable city,” Cindy adds. 

New framework aims to boost Singapore's competitiveness in energy and chemicals manufacturing

13 Nov 2019
Companies in the Process Construction and Maintenance (PCM) Industry that provide services to Energy and Chemicals (E&C) plants will soon be able to attain recognition if they meet certain productivity benchmarks. A new certification framework will evaluate companies in four areas: how they improve planning and execution through using project management tools; technology adoption; staff development; and how well they collect data that can be analysed. The framework was developed over the past four years by the Productivity Council (PC), which was initiated by the Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore Chemical Industries Council (SCIC) and Association of Process Industry (ASPRI). It includes representatives from PCM firms as well as E&C plant owners. Chemical and utility pipelines seen on Jurong Island in a photo taken on Nov 5, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Companies raise over S$500,000 to plant 30,000 trees on Jurong Island

02 Nov 2019
The Process, Construction and Maintenance (PCM) Industry has remained a key supporting pillar to the Jurong Island ecosystem and an integral part of the island’s community. Hence, when presented with an opportunity to be part of the initiative to green Jurong Island, we knew ASPRI had to be part of it. With about 500 member companies, ASPRI aimed to achieve ‘one member one tree’ so that each of our members can play a role in this inclusive campaign. Together as one, ASPRI has successfully raised over $100,000 towards planting 30,000 trees on Jurong Island over the next three years, making it a pleasant place for everyone. ASPRI would like to thank our members as this could not have been possible with their support. Photo from JTC Corporation, NParks Click Here for Full Article Write-Up on Business Times  Click Here for Full Article Write-Up on Straits Times 

30,000 trees to be planted on Jurong Island to beat the heat on the industrial estate

02 Nov 2019
SINGAPORE - Thirty thousand trees will be planted on Jurong Island over the next three years in a greening initiative announced by JTC and the National Parks Board(NParks) on Saturday (Nov 2).   To fund the initiative, businesses in the industrial estate have raised more than $500,000 so far, with oil and gas company ExxonMobil being the largest contributor with $120,000 and the Association of Process Industry (Aspri) -comprising mainly small- and medium-sized enterprises - raising more than $90,000 among its members. NParks said the additional greenery should help cool temperatures on the man-made island off the south-western coast of Singapore that currently is home to more than 100 petroleum, petrochemical and specialty chemical companies. The greenery would also benefit the ecosystem and enhance the attractiveness of working at Jurong Island, said NParks group director of streetscape Oh CheowSheng. Mr Oh said NParks would monitor the effects of the additional greenery on Jurong Island as the trees matured in 15 to 20 years. A diverse range of tree species will be planted, such as the Neolitsea cassia (ShoreLaurel) and Planchonella obovata (Yellow Teak), which have been selected for their hardiness, drought tolerance, aesthetics and shade provision. "The trees will be planted along the roadside and open spaces in a multi-tiered manner, mimicking a forest structure," said Mr Oh. Since March, about 2,000 trees have been planted on Jurong Island, which currently has a total of about 10,000 trees. Director of energy and chemicals at JTC, Ms Cindy Koh, said there has been an increasing focus on environmental sustainability in the manufacturing sector. "Since we own 80 per cent of industrial land in Singapore, we see the need to co-create with our business community industrial estates that are more sustainable and attractive for businesses and talent," she added. Mr Gan Seow Kee, chairman and managing director of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific said the company was committed to protecting biodiversity and the natural surroundings wherever it operated.

Jurong Island Firms Join Hands on Work Safety

24 Nov 2018
ASPRI is proud to inform that the launch of Vision Zero Cluster has finally taken place ever since the formation of the work group in February this year with 25 companies on Jurong Island pledging to work together to prioritise safety and health in their workplaces. This cluster is an initiative to promote safety in all aspect and to foster mindset that all injuries and ill health at work can be prevented if we put in extra effort to care for one another and to take notice of our surroundings. Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Singapore's strength behind the world-class refining and chemicals industry

01 Jun 2018
ASPRI would like to thank Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) for interviewing Mr. Charles Quek, President of ASPRI and Chief Executive Officer of HSL Constructor Pte Ltd to talk about Singapore’s Process Industry, ASPRI, ASPRI-Westlite – Papan, Jurong Island and the Industry Transformation Map (ITM). For the actual snippets of the article, kindly click on the following link: Chinese Entrepreneur 2018 issue 1 – Interview with Charles Quek Note that the article is in Chinese. Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Dorm with training centre a boost for Jurong Island workers → 5 JAN 18

05 Jan 2018
The 7,900-bed dorm, called ASPRI-Westlite Dormitory – Papan, is the first of its kind in Singapore with an attached training centre. It also has recreational facilities and amenities such as cricket training pitches, an indoor gym, a dental and medical clinic, and a barber shop. Eight workers share a large room, in two-bedroom units with en suite bathrooms and kitchens. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was the guest of honour at the official opening of the dorm last night, praised the integrated model. ASPRI president Charles Quek said the association has raised the number of training hours it delivers to 125,000 a year at the integrated training centre, up from 30,000 a year ago at its old facility. It hopes to ramp that up to 400,000 hours over the next three years. Extracted from The Straits Times Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

New hub in Jurong for Trade Associations → 24 SEP 16

24 Sep 2016
The Trade Association (TA) Hub to be sited at Jurong Town Hall has already signed up 18 trade associations, including the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), the Landscape Industry Association and the Association of Process Industry. Mr Charles Quek, president of the Association of Process Industry, told a panel discussion at the Trade Association Congress here yesterday that he hopes the hub will facilitate greater collaboration. “For associations, there’s a lot we can share and learn from each other. You cannot look at your industry alone,” he said, emphasising that there could be more cross-industry collaborations. Extracted from The Straits Times, Photo from JTC Corporation Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Trade Associations and Chambers get more Funds to help Businesses develop → 3 JUN 2015

03 Jun 2015
Six trade associations and chambers (TACs) were awarded further funding totalling about $7 million for their Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) programmes at the LEAD 10th anniversary dinner on Tuesday. Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, addressing the 300 guests from the TACs across various sectors at the event, said: ” TACs are key partners for the government in reaching out to the business community and driving change within industries. //Extracts from Business Times Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Worker dorm to include training facilities → 20 MAR 2015

20 Mar 2015
Aspri president Charles Quek said the new, larger space and increased convenience will provide 48 annual training hours per worker for the 7,900 that will be housed in the dormitory, as opposed to the 16 hours for the 4,000 workers now getting training at the existing IPI facility. Aspri vice-president Francis Tay said that while priority for training sessions will be given to workers living in the dormitory, opportunities might also be given to other foreign workers if there is spare capacity. The training sessions will include English lessons as well as industry-specific courses that will be organised in collaboration with the Process Construction and Maintenance Management Committee. //Extracts from The Straits Times  Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Singapore's first dormitory with an Integrated Training Facility for workers in the Process industry → 18 MAR 2015

18 Mar 2015
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of ASPRI-Westlite Dormitory Papan, Singapore’s first dormitory with an integrated training facility for workers in the Process industry. //Extracts from Channel NewsAsia  Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Ground-breaking ceremony for large new $200m foreign worker dormitory at Jurong → 18 MAR 2015

18 Mar 2015
The integrated training facility in the new worker’s dormitory in Jurong, due to be completed mid-2016. A ground-breaking ceremony was held Wednesday. The Aspri-Westlite Papan dormitory will incorporate 3,000 sq m of training space, up from about 280 sq m at the current Institute of Process Industry (IPI). //Extracts from The Straits Times Photo from Straits Times   Click Here for Full Article Write-Up 

Productivity push for Process Construction and Maintenance Sector → 12 FEB 2015

12 Feb 2015
The Process, Construction and Maintenance (PCM) sector with the productivity council set up, will look to improve management practices  and put in place certification systems to encourage companies to adopt productivity and safety measures. The productivity council will have 3 working groups; one will support a three-year benchmarking programme which will demonstrate the benefits of productivity improvement led by ExxonMobil, second will be responsible for certification led by Shell, and the third will look at mechanisation initiatives led by Singapore Refining Company (SRC). //Extracts from Business Times SRC has invested S$1.2m in new automatic tools that have made its plant maintenance process more productive, cutting down set-up time by 40% or 52,000 man-hours. PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG/THE STRAITS TIMES

Immediate Past President, James Goh talking about the Productivity Council on 98.7FM → 11 FEB 2015

11 Feb 2015
The Productivity Council will drives the adoption of global best practices in Process, Construction and Maintenance (PCM) firms. Though the adoption of these practices, firms will be able to cut down their labour costs for about 20% to 30% on the long-term basis. Click Here to listen to the Interview 

New Industry-led Productivity Council Formed → 11 FEB 2015

11 Feb 2015
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Mr. Lee Yi Shyan, announced the establishment of the Productivity Council during a visit to the Singapore Refining Company’s (SRC) oil refinery on Jurong Island. The Council which comprises of ASPRI, plant owners and contractors, will set up a centre of excellence to provide training and consultation for Process, Construction and Maintenance (PCM) contractors to upgrade their processes. //Extracts from The Straits Times
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