National Day Special: Engineering veterans share how the local industry has evolved

By Engine Room Posted 9mth(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes


Happy National Day!

It’s no doubt that Singapore has seen a remarkable transformation over the past 50+ years into a world-class city. Economically, infrastructurally and socially, we’ve come a long way since our independence in 1965, and we owe a lot of it to engineering. 

That’s right. We’re a little red dot built on the back of extraordinary engineers.

To celebrate our 55th birthday, we take a trip down memory lane and speak to two engineering veterans from AbbVie and Lucite International to share (nostalgically) how the industry has changed through the years and what young engineers like you can now expect. 

Rethinking chemical processes for a better and greener future

Tan Lip Hwee, Production Manager at Lucite International

The chemical industry is a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, and one of the largest contributors to our nation’s manufacturing output. As a world leading chemical hub, Singapore has attracted many global players to set up their operations here.

Tan Lip Hwee, Production Manager at Lucite International, has been with the company for 13 years and has seen the chemical engineering industry shift from raw production towards environmental protection. The focus is now very much on technologies that produce less waste and harmful gaseous emissions, and rethinking traditional processes to manage chemical waste and lower raw material inputs.

“We also place increasing emphasis on the safety aspect of operating a chemical plant, and look closely at methods that ensure any risks a chemical plant poses to its workers, the community and environment is minimised.”

Lip Hwee also notes that the industry, like others, is undergoing a digital transformation. Digital solutions like the use of automated vehicles to shift large material quantities, centralised plant systems for better control, and advanced analytics to promote production efficiency will be the future.

Now that’s something to look forward to.

Employing soft skills to help hard skills shine

Khoo Shih Mian, Lead Process & Project Engineer at AbbVie 

Technology has greatly transformed the biopharmaceutical industry and its manufacturing processes too, according to Khoo Shih Mian, who is a Lead Process & Project Engineer at AbbVie with nearly 20 years of experience.

For starters, paper records and manual controls are now fully electronic, which has led to significant reductions in human errors and increases in production efficiency. Process innovations now enhance yield and improve production cost, to enable continuous R&D investment for new products.

Phew, we can’t imagine logging all those technical reports by hand!

The impact of technology also affects an engineer’s role. There is a fast-growing demand for engineers who possess not only technical skills, but digital literacy and a broad understanding of other functions outside of their job scope. 

In Shih Mian’s words, “Equally critical are soft skills for working with teams and excellent communication and presentation skills. Recent engineering graduates can expect challenging assignments and the opportunity to drive continuous business improvements. Engineers with intimate knowledge of the biopharma manufacturing processes and plant control systems are well equipped to fill an increasingly important digital skill set.”

For example, many engineers at AbbVie work at the brand new biologics facility in Tuas. The facility deploys the latest equipment that drives energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, and relies on well-trained engineers to operate smoothly.

One thing’s for sure – if you’re a young engineer, while the future may seem unpredictable, it is bright. No matter which discipline you’re in, the disruptive nature of technology means that industries will continue to adopt new digital solutions to meet present day challenges.

This in turn opens up new opportunities for young engineers like you to make a difference. With your fresh perspective and familiarity with modern technology, engineers of today are much more well equipped to handle industry evolutions.

(Psst, if you’re looking for a way to improve your soft skills, this article is for you!)

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