COMPANIES looking to raise their productivity may do well to copy ideas from outside their industry, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan said yesterday.
He made this point at the "Getting Real with Productivity" forum, and elaborated on it when he spoke to reporters later.
Noting that companies in the service industry usually set their new hires to work immediately, he suggested that these firms learn from manufacturing companies, which typically train their workers for a few weeks before putting them on the production line. If service industry companies did this, their workers would be able to provide more consistent service, he said.
"You don't leave your business to run by chance; instead, you structure it properly," he said.
At the forum, which was supported by the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council, panellists identified processes and management as blind spots that are usually neglected when a company is caught up in generating revenue. The speakers also told the audience of 240 owners and managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) how they can harness technology and overcome manpower shortages.
Hum Sin Hoon, deputy dean of the NUS Business School, picked up on Mr Lee's point about looking to other industries for productivity ideas.
Prof Hum said the practice of having centralised kitchens and procurement, now widely used by food and beverage companies here, started in the manufacturing industry, which has long used this concept to distribute product components from here - the procurement hub - to their factories in the region.
Sylvia Teng, sales and business development director of Justlogin, which provides software to streamline human resource functions, was in the audience. She said she is flexible about the industry her team is from, as she recognises that they may bring with them best practices from their previous industry.
Prof Hum said business leaders can go back to school, attend courses or attend events to meet leaders from different industries to get ideas.
"With good management, productivity can explode," he said.