Singapore Strategy Looks at Sourcing and Market Entry Print E-mail
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Written by Susan Mucha   
Thursday, 03 June 2010 16:11


The nation’s collaborative medical manufacturing template is a prescription for success.

In a visit to Singapore in March, I saw an interesting trend developing. The local government has long marketed the country as a regional hub for sourcing and business investment. It has also done a good job of partnering educational infrastructure with local businesses. And during the economic downturn, it significantly increased the assistance available to companies wishing to improve technology and capabilities. These efforts now have combined for a holistic value proposition that offers combinations of market entry, supplier identification and targeted R&D support.

Singapore’s Medtech Manufacturing Initiative is one example of this focus. Singapore markets itself as Asia Lite: a country with a diverse population and culture. From a business strategy and R&D perspective, this offers some interesting advantages. For example, many US residents think of Asia as a single region. The reality is that Asia is made up of many cultures, races and ethnicities that drive a significant amount of market segmentation.

Take a product as simple as contact lenses. In Asia, there is great variation in eye size and shape. A company wishing to launch a new contact lens product needs to do market testing for the range of variations likely to occur in the countries in which the product will be launched. Part of Singapore’s value proposition is that the country is racially and ethnically diverse enough that much of that testing could be done in a single location.

Similarly, Singapore’s mix of Western and Asian influence provides a legal system based on British Common Law, a population fluent in both English and Mandarin and a business culture comfortable to expatriates from around the world. Recruiting and retaining personnel for multinational operations can be much easier in that environment.

The holistic approach is driven through consortia. For example, the Medtech Manufacturing Consortium is led by the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). This consortium is one of the several it has spearheaded. Its goal is to address the challenges faced by Singapore industry in manufacturing medical devices by establishing a framework to improve or create new medical manufacturing capabilities. It does this by sharing experience, knowledge and best practices in medical manufacturing technology, while facilitating research collaboration among consortium members and research institutes. And the consortium isn’t simply a cluster of suppliers. It is instead a group of suppliers, medical device manufacturers, support service providers, government agencies, associations and universities.

As a result, medical device manufacturers and universities can collaborate in driving manufacturing technology development within the supply base. Some of the participating agencies such as Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore assist medical device manufacturers with market entry strategies that either launch new products and technology or modify existing products to better address regional market needs. In short, Singapore’s value proposition isn’t “locate in this region to find lower labor cost.” Instead, it is “locate in this region for competitive market advantage.”

Not surprisingly, the Medtech Consortium has several electronics manufacturing services members, as well as support service providers aligned with the needs of the electronics industry.  EMS providers include Beyonics Technology and CEI Contract Manufacturing Ltd. Precision engineering suppliers that also perform assembly include First Engineering Ltd., Fischer Tech, and Fong’s Engineering and Manufacturing Pte. Ltd.

Some of the medical OEMs participating include Acme Monaco Asia, BD, Biosensors Interventional Technologies, Cardinal Health, PerkinElmer, SG Molecular Diagnostics and Siemens Medical Instruments.

In addition to traditional manufacturing service providers for plastics, polymers, EMS, precision machining, coating, surface treatment and contract sterilization services, a number of service providers provide services to both OEMs and the manufacturing supply base. These include product development companies, CAD software developers, process control and factory automation system developers, third-party test laboratories, and custom IT platform developers.

The Consortium also offers a fairly focused package of benefits to its members, including technology workshops, competitive intelligence reports, alliance with the Singapore Precision Engineering and Tooling Association and Biomedical Engineering Society, business matchmaking opportunities, focused OEM/supplier partnership projects, a graduate diploma in MedTech manufacturing and a consultancy service that could be tapped for technology roadmapping, device design or feasibility studies, and supply-chain optimization recommendations.

In March, I spoke with several of these suppliers at the Medtech Manufacturing Conference in Singapore. While the Consortium has just been formed, and therefore doesn’t have a lot of concrete success stories to tell, the overall consensus was that its primary value was the networking opportunities it delivered across the entire medtech value chain. Manufacturing suppliers with complex projects could easily tap into service providers or educational resources for support in meeting
customer requirements.

It is increasingly difficult for any company to be successful without strong partnerships. When the combination of pace of technological advancement and global market diversity is added to the mix, the challenge is pretty overwhelming. The MedTech Manufacturing Consortium stands out as one innovative example of ways companies can band to tackle those challenges. 

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. (; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Her book, Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for Account Acquisition in Electronics Manufacturing Services, is available through, and the IPC and SMTA bookstores.

Last Updated on Monday, 07 June 2010 15:16


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