Forget business as usual, improve yield, cost efficiency

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Aviation sector unveils masterplan to overcome land and manpower constraints

From deploying roving check-in agents with portable printers at Changi Airport to ease queues, to adopting 3D printing for aircraft spare parts, Singapore has unveiled a masterplan to transform the aviation industry.

Other projects being explored include remote air traffic control technology that could eventually allow integrating operations of two control towers, as well as the use of automated aerobridge docking.

Led by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), with support from Changi Airport Group, ground handlers, airlines and other stakeholders, the Air Transport Industry Transformation Map has two objectives: create better jobs and career opportunities for workers, and support the sector's growth and competitiveness.

Unveiling the plan at the Aviation Community Reception yesterday evening, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said the sector has done well but the future will be challenging.

"A business-as-usual approach will not do also because of our inherent constraints of land and manpower. For example, under 'business as usual', we will need to hire 10,000 more workers over the next decade.

"This will be very difficult, given the shortage of manpower in Singapore," he said.

Between now and 2025, the target is to increase productivity by about 40 per cent and redesign or create 8,000 "good jobs", with more positions for professionals, technicians and cabin crew, he said.


For workers to become more productive, he urged firms to ramp up the use of technology such as robotics to ease physically demanding and manual tasks in airport operations.

"Systems will talk more to each other, and more autonomous systems will support our work.

"We want to track every piece of baggage, cargo and equipment moving across the airport in real time. Airport staff equipped with mobile devices and smart wearables can then locate them more swiftly," he explained.

He added that while it is an ambitious goal, the Government plans to grow the economic value created by the sector from about $7 billion today to $8 billion by 2020.

CAAS director-general Kevin Shum said there will be close collaboration with tripartite partners - companies and unions - to implement the plans.

The chairman of NTUC's aerospace and aviation cluster, Mr Ong Hwee Liang, said he hopes more workers will seize the new opportunities and adopt lifelong learning in their working life to stay relevant, productive and employable.

Mr Ng Chin Hwee, Singapore Airlines' executive vice-president (human resources and operations), noted that the industry initiative is timely, given current challenges.

Overcapacity in the skies remains a challenge and continues to put pressure on yields, while on the ground, traffic growth continues to add pressure on the infrastructure and manpower needs.

"These challenges require a transformation plan that will enable Changi Airport, the airlines and other aviation partners to handle the traffic volume with higher productivity and cost efficiency while delivering a high-quality experience for travellers," he said.

The aviation masterplan is part of a larger national strategy to promote growth and competitiveness for 23 industries across the economy and create good jobs for Singaporeans.