Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Official Opening of the Singapore International Facility Management Association (SIFMA) Office

Jul 22, 2021

A very good morning. I’m very happy to be here today. Let me begin by warmly congratulating SIFMA on the opening of its new office at the BCA Academy. It is a milestone for SIFMA and a new chapter for the Facilities Management, or FM industry. 

SIFMA has grown from strength to strength over the years. SIFMA now counts close to 60 corporate members amongst its ranks, many of which are leading companies in the FM industry. I am heartened that SIFMA will be able to better represent and champion the interests of the FM firms, and fraternity. 

Importance of the FM Industry 

The work of the FM industry touches our everyday lives. Our facilities managers ensure that our buildings which include our homes, our workplaces and our recreational spaces are safe, clean, and well-maintained. This has a direct impact on our well-being and happiness. 

The FM industry is also an integral part of the Built Environment sector. The way in which FM is delivered is critical in ensuring the sustainability of buildings for the longer term, especially since a significant proportion of our buildings and our workforce are ageing. However, this is also dependent on the stakeholders further upstream of the building lifecycle, such as our designers and builders.. 

Current Progress of FM Transformation 

In this regard, we have worked with industry partners from across the Built Environment sector on our FM transformation efforts. 

First, we have engaged developers and project teams to incorporate considerations for maintainability in building designs. We call this Design for Maintainability, or DfM for short. BCA published Enhanced Guides for DfM in May 2019 and has worked with project teams to adopt DfM practices. For instance, designers should ensure that chillers and cooling towers have sufficient space provided for technicians to access them, and the provision of power and data service points for the installation of smart monitoring systems in the operations of the building. We are also planning to launch a revised Green Mark framework later this year. Under the framework, buildings that adopt DfM practices are in a better position to be awarded the Maintainability Badge. To attain the badge, project teams will need to fulfil a checklist of DfM considerations in their building designs. Doing so will reduce the resources for maintenance across the building’s life span. This will provide developers with the recognition that they have worked towards ensuring the sustainability of the building for the long term. At the same time, DfM will make it much easier for our facilities managers to maintain our buildings, and create cost savings for our building owners. 

Second, we have worked with FM firms and building owners to adopt smart, digital technologies and solutions to raise productivity. BCA launched its Guide to Smart FM in October 2019, which provides an easy reference for the industry to adopt such solutions. These include sensors in restrooms and lift monitoring devices that can automatically flag incidents to our facilities managers, allowing them to respond quickly. In fact, data analytics can be integrated with many of these solutions, and can even provide for predictive maintenance before the issues actually occur. This would not only help our facilities managers to reduce the need for maintenance, but also minimise the resources required. 

To accelerate the adoption of Smart FM, we launched the Smart FM Challenge in September 2020. As of today, more than 100 FM firms have pledged to adopt smart FM solutions within the coming three years. 

We would not have been able to achieve these results without the close partnership of the tripartite Facilities Management Implementation Committee, or FMIC to work together with us to develop and implement these initiatives. 

I wish to commend SIFMA on the leading role it has played in these transformation efforts. As part of the FMIC, SIFMA has actively participated in the development and implementation of FM transformation strategies. It has also commissioned the Singapore FM Landscape Study, which is the first of its kind to study the local FM industry in detail. BCA and Enterprise Singapore will partner SIFMA to review the recommendations from the study, and incorporate the insights into our FM transformation initiatives moving forward. 

Supporting our FM Firms through COVID-19 

Although we have made good progress with our transformation efforts, COVID-19 has hit our Built Environment sector very hard. For instance, the Safe Management Measures (SMMs) have taken their toll on work productivity. This was especially pronounced during the Circuit Breaker period last year, when only essential maintenance activities were permitted to continue. FM firms, all of you, were understandably concerned with rising manpower and operating costs given the various restrictions and constraints. 

The Government, on our part, has extended strong support to our firms during this time of crisis. We leaned in to supplement the wages of our local workers through the Job Support Scheme. We also introduced the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, which provided loans at low interest rates with significant government risk-sharing to help ease the cashflow of our firms. BCA had also stepped up its outreach to the FM industry, quickly setting up communication channels such as WhatsApp and Telegram to share the latest information with all of you. 

Despite the good work we have achieved together thus far, we are still not out of the woods yet. The most recent outbreaks have shown us that the new COVID variants are highly transmissible, and large clusters can emerge quickly. In this regard, we need to remain vigilant with our SMMs, and continue to keep the FM workforce and the community safe; especially since many of our FM workers and employees are at the frontline, interacting with the community on a regular basis, cleaning our buildings, maintaining our assets and our buildings. To safeguard our workplaces, we encourage our firms to adopt Antigen Rapid Testing (ART) for your workers. This will create an additional layer of protection, as we step up our efforts to detect any transmission of the virus at the earliest opportunity. I was very heartened to hear from many of the SIFMA members that the vaccine rate among your workers is very high. And many of them are very keen to get vaccinated, and many have done so already. I continue to encourage all our FM firms to get your workers to get vaccinated, and grant them sufficient time off from work to do so. 

FM Transformation as part of Built Environment Transformation 

Looking ahead, we plan to push for even greater productivity and sustainability outcomes. We want to create higher-skilled jobs, that command higher wages and jobs to attract younger Singaporeans to join our sector. 

An important step is to better integrate FM industry transformation with our wider effort to transform the entire Built Environment sector. We had renewed our sub-committee for Urban Systems under the Future Economy Council earlier this year, to coordinate this effort. In fact, we have held several fruitful discussions with small groups of the members, which I have been co-chairing with my fellow co-chair Mr Liam Wee Sin, the Group Chief Executive of UOL Group Limited. At the same time, we have been actively engaging FM stakeholders as part of this sub-committee, including Mr Tony Khoo, the president of SIFMA. 

In Wee Sin’s and my discussions with the various members, we believe that there are three key themes in the next phase of our Built Environment transformation. First, digitalisation. We can better leverage digital technologies. This includes establishing a digital spine through Integrated Digital Delivery, or IDD, throughout the entire built environment value chain. We aim to bring together different stakeholders across the various stages of the building lifecycle, from design, to build, to maintenance and uplift the entire sector through digital technologies, leveraging on this digital spine. Second, automation. We can better automate manpower-intensive construction processes by moving construction off-site into a controlled factory environment, through Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, or DfMA technologies. And third, is about sustainability. We launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 earlier this year which outline ambitious goals for our nation, including raising energy efficiency standards for our buildings through Green Marks, green certifications, and green standards. It is our generation’s commitment to create a more sustainable and liveable city for our children and their children. 

The Next Bound of FM Transformation 

In line with these themes, some of our FM firms have taken the step to testbed progressive technologies and practices. One example is CBM Private Limited, which I visited yesterday. CBM’s integrated platform allows it to coordinate multiple FM services, such as cleaning and building maintenance, across its portfolio of buildings. At the same time, the platform allows for the real-time monitoring of buildings around the clock, and is able to carry out data analytics for predictive maintenance. This allows maintenance teams to respond quickly to incidents, and identify equipment breakdowns even before they occur. Taken together, the platform is projected to create at least 20% in manpower savings, and will significantly reduce the use of resources such as electricity, saving costs for the building owners. It has also been well-received by CBM’s own staff, who previously had to manually inspect the buildings for faults. The cost savings created by increased work productivity have allowed CBM to raise the wages of their workers. 

There are two key concepts that CBM has demonstrated which are possible for the future FM industry. First, integrated FM, which is the concept of managing different FM services via an integrated platform. This would allow firms to optimise the deployment of their manpower and resources, enhancing both productivity and sustainability in the process. 

At the same time, economies of scale can be achieved through aggregating FM services across multiple buildings, in what is known as aggregated FM. 

Together, both integrated and aggregated FM will help to push the boundaries in productivity and sustainability of FM firms. I am heartened to note that our industry partners in the FMIC and SIFMA have expressed their strong support for these initiatives, and we will take the next step towards making this vision a reality together. 

Moving Towards Integrated and Aggregated FM 

On this note, BCA is partnering the FMIC and SIFMA on three key thrusts to support the growth of integrated and aggregated FM. 

First, enhancing the procurement of FM services. Currently, many contracts are tendered out by building owners for a single FM service, for a single building. This makes it difficult to adopt integrated and aggregated FM across multiple buildings. There is also room to raise service quality, by stipulating clear goals in contracts to incentivise better service standards. To address these issues, BCA has worked with the FMIC to publish the Guide to FM Procurement in January earlier this year. The guide provides a reference for building owners to restructure their FM contracts, and adopt more progressive procurement practices. 

Second, accelerating the adoption of new technologies. As integrated and aggregated FM are relatively new concepts, there is a need to testbed the technologies involved. BCA has launched a grant call for the Smart FM Proof-of-Concept Grant in September last year. There was very strong interest from the industry – in fact, we received close to 40 applications. I am pleased to announce today that the grant has been awarded to Certis Cisco Security Private Limited and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Both projects are projected to deliver significant productivity gains of more than 20%, through the use of integrated and aggregated FM. These productivity gains will be achieved by deploying a digital platform to coordinate their various FM operations virtually, and leveraging data analytics to predict the need for building maintenance even before the issues occur. I wish both awardees well as they embark on implementing integrated and aggregated FM in their respective portfolios of buildings. 

Third, we would also need to develop competencies of FM companies and our workforce. Given that integrated and aggregated FM are enabled by digital technologies, we will need to upskill our workers, and develop the necessary capabilities within our firms. 

The experience of Yazid, who I met on my visit to CBM yesterday, has shown that this is entirely possible. In his last 23 years with CBM, Yazid has gone from starting out as a cleaner, to now becoming an Operations Manager today. He now manages more than 10 projects with over 100 cleaners using a digital dashboard on CBM’s platform that allows him to supervise multiple maintenance teams concurrently. This was possible due to Yazid’s zest for learning, and his efforts in diligently taking courses in his time outside of work to learn how to manage digital technologies and solutions. I met him yesterday. He was very enthusiastic and proud of his achievements after 23 years from a cleaner, all the way to an Operations Manager, CBM has actively supported Yazid in his upskilling journey, while transforming its own operations to embrace digitalisation and create better jobs with higher pay for staff like Yazid. When I spoke to Yazid, he was also very appreciative of the support that CBM has given him. I hope Yazid’s experience will also inspire other FM professionals, firms, and leadership to likewise upskill and progress in their professional journeys and support them in their professional upgrading. 

SIFMA has played a leading role in building these competencies through the development of the accreditation schemes for both FM companies and individuals. We are very pleased to announce the launch of SIFMA’s Certified FM Company scheme, or CFMC. Our FM firms will need to meet high standards to be accredited for the basic certification tier, including the adoption of Smart FM. Only the most progressive FM firms who invest in research and innovation, and put in place plans for workforce and leadership development will be able to attain the highest accreditation tier of CFMC GoldPLUS. This allows such firms to better differentiate themselves, while providing assurance to service buyers that their FM services are of the highest quality. I wish to congratulate the seven firms here with us today who have been awarded the CFMC GoldPLUS certification. SIFMA is also working on a separate accreditation scheme for FM individuals, to be launched later this year. I encourage all our other FM firms and workers to strive towards these higher standards, and apply to be accredited by SIFMA when they are ready. 


Let me conclude. Through these efforts, we can now envision a future of manpower-lean and high-quality FM services sector as we look ahead. This would be enabled by our ongoing efforts for DfM and Smart FM, while pursuing the next bound of industry transformation through integrated and aggregated FM. Doing so will also allow our FM firms to contribute towards the productivity and sustainability of our wider Built Environment sector. 

The Government will do our part, and take the lead to adopt these initiatives for our public sector buildings. I seek the strong support of our FM firms to continue to work with us, transform your businesses, and create higher-skilled jobs to attract our young Singaporeans. 

I am grateful for the leadership of SIFMA, and other progressive FM firms and building owners who have charted the path ahead. Again, let me congratulate SIFMA on the opening of your new office and welcome to your new home at the BCA Academy. I wish you every success. 

Thank you.