More than 100 SMEs gain from group-based upgrading solutions

SME Centres want to extend their reach to 200 more SMEs by year's end, helping them to improve sales, productivity and customer service levels, for example


OVER 100 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have benefited from 22 group-based upgrading projects implemented by SME Centres in the past year, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Tuesday.

The centres are keen to spearhead more such projects and have set a target to involve another 200 SMEs by year's end, he added.

The initiative is part of the SME Centres' efforts to aggregate common capability needs of the SMEs in the same locality or trade, so as to facilitate group solutions and tackle common challenges.

Mr Chee was speaking at the SME Centre Conference 2018 at the Resorts World Convention Centre, attended by a primarily SME-strong audience of about 700 people.

This is his first event since taking on the portfolio in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The group-based upgrading projects include both digital and non-digital solutions, and have helped SMEs to improve their sales and revenue, productivity, customer service levels and shopping experiences, said a statement from Enterprise Singapore

But even as the SME Centres' have lofty goals to reach out to firms, Mr Chee said that the numbers are targets, and not key performance indicators (KPIs).

"I don't believe in starting from KPIs, I believe in starting from outcomes - focus on outcomes and in this case, to me it's clear: how to help our businesses upgrade their capabilities. We start from there," he said.

One such project, led by SME Centre@ Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), aims to help the tailoring sector.

Started in November 2017, it looks to raise productivity levels among businesses by using a 3D body scanner, which captures details like body measurements in a customer database. This reduces human errors and the time needed to manually record measurements.

In addition, an order management system is also being introduced to speed up and track the order taking process, and enable easier retrieval of customers' orders.

The project aims to reach out to 30 tailoring businesses by the end of this year, said Enterprise Singapore.

The government agency also provided some updates on the progress of SME Centres.

Last year, some 1,100 SMEs embarked on and completed capability development projects, nearly double the figure in 2013.

Of these SMEs, 70 per cent embarked on some form of technology adoption, such as point-of-sale systems and customer relationship management systems.

Popular areas that SMEs sought help on are in new business set-up, business capabilities diagnosis and advice on government assistance programmes, said Enterprise Singapore.

Collectively, the SME Centres help more than 20,000 SMEs every year; most of them belong to the micro and small-enterprise categories and record under S$10 million in annual revenue.

Enterprise Singapore said: "SME Centres will be driving more impactful group-based upgrading projects to help SMEs, including businesses in the heartlands, to solve common business problems and adopt appropriate technology solutions."

They will also deepen their scope of business diagnosis, advisory services and capability workshops in areas such as digitalisation, e-commerce and internationalisation, added the agency.