Industry players in Penang must keep pace with emerging new technologies that have impact on supply chain management (SCM) if they are to stay ahead in the highly competitive global market.
WOU Pro-Chancellor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon made this point, when recounting, how during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Penang, logistics and supply chain were the most important elements in his administration’s promotion of industrial growth in the state.
He shared his experience of pushing the federal government for infrastructure facilities like the new container port and new air cargo and freight forwarders’ complex, to facilitate logistics and movement of goods.
He also recounted efforts in building a strong supplier base in Penang through the Global Supplier Programme of Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC) for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to upgrade their technologies and expand networking to support the expanding industrial sector.
As an example, he highlighted how his administration managed to get the US-based tech corporation Dell Inc to be based in Penang in the early 1990s in competition to Singapore, and on overcoming certain logistics and costs issues to maintain Dell in Penang, thus ensuring business for local SMEs.
He said the Dell experience showed that situations can change very fast, adding, “If we don’t keep running, we are going to be left behind.”
He said a lot of work is needed to help SMEs stay competitive. “Everyone has got a barrier in terms of how to adopt the latest technology. However, though good for higher productivity and quality, emerging technologies are extremely disruptive to SMEs and to the whole economy in terms of labour supply, the skill sets needed, etc.”
“That is why it is very important to continuously have this dialogue to figure out what to do collectively,” he said when opening the Roundtable on ‘Emerging trends of technologies in SCM’ at the WOU main campus today.
He also emphasised that it is crucial for educational institutions to produce people that are knowledgeable and yet flexible enough and willing to continue to learn, “or else we risk losing jobs to Vietnam and even Myanmar”. He called for strategising and close collaboration amongst our local captains of industry and those in logistics and higher education to better position Penang.
“We must collaborate to make effective use of emerging new technologies. We must be one step ahead of the changing market conditions and more importantly we must produce the right type of manpower that can handle the challenges and changes of the future,” stressed Dr Koh.
Earlier, Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye noted that things happen fast under the present fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 environment. He said industry 4.0 has disruptive impacts, but also offers opportunities for industries to create jobs and for universities to produce graduates that are employable.
“Industry 4 is touted as job killers as well as job creators,” he stated, adding that some current jobs will disappear to be replaced with new ones. He said those in white collar and administration will feel the stress of this disruption, while computing, engineering, programming, and mathematics will gain more importance.
“Between these two extremes, the educational institutions must transform themselves to become industrial age universities and try to produce the kind of graduates that will meet the demand of industry 4.0 companies.” He declared that WOU will continue to play this crucial role.
The two-day roundtable organised by WOU in collaboration with the PSDC was attended by some 50 industry experts and SCM practitioners - including LF Logistics, Celestica, NSW Automation and Intel - to review emerging SCM trends and technologies.