Closing speech by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat at Supply Chain Challenge ++ 2022

Closing Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences, at Supply Chain Challenge ++ 2022, 27 July 2022

Members of the Singapore Logistics Association;

Industry and Institution Partners;

Colleagues; and

Students from participating institutions

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Supply Chain Challenge ++ 2022 Finals. At last, we are able to hold this in person – a special warm welcome indeed!

SUSS has been co-organising this annual challenge with the Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) since it started. We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of SCC++ this year. The pandemic caused us to cancel SCC 2020, delaying this celebration a year. Ten challenges and going strong - we are grateful for SLA’s unwavering partnership in achieving this milestone together.

I would also like to our valued partners in this year’s Challenge:

  • Our sponsor and friends from – Singapore Institute of Technology
  • Our mentor organisations –Germaxco Shipping Agencies and Global Airfreight International (both mentor organisations for the second year), and SFS Global Logistics – for giving the students access to their business operations, thus allowing them to experience and learn about the real business challenges and opportunities first hand. This challenge event would not have been possible without your support.

I would also like to appreciate our partner institutions for their keen support:

  • Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.

COVID-19 has inflicted great difficulty on our world – besides more than 530 million people infected and almost 6.3 million1 killed, practically all have been inconvenienced, traumatised or have their lives and relationships disrupted. Most countries are transitioning to the post-pandemic phase, Singapore included. Although there are still some restrictions, we have a good measure of normal life here.  People are relieved, and some think all is going to be well soon, to the point of complacency in protecting themselves and others, and taking unnecessary risks.

But, is it soon going to be all well?  No one really knows.  Just when we think we are getting out of the pandemic, the Ukraine war started.  Oil prices have sky-rocketted, money and attention is diverted to fight war instead of re-starting economies. Inflation and price increases in goods and services are accelerating. Even one of our favourite dishes – chicken rice – is not spared, when Malaysia recently imposed an export ban on live chicken because it became more costly to rear chickens!

For this event today, let’s just focus on supply chains.  One of the clear bad consequences of the pandemic is the disruption of supplies of all sorts of goods that people need, leading also to shortages and significant price rises (and this is well before the additional stress from the Ukraine war). The pandemic has put the spotlight on the critical role of supply chain management and supply resiliency in our everyday life. The ordinary folks do not normally make the connection between what they buy and use every day and the supply chain that brings them the goods from all over the world.  Now, hopefully they know better, and they will appreciate all those working in logistics and supply chain management. 

A resilient supply chain can not only keep goods flowing in adverse situations, it can save thousands of lives in a time of crisis. This has been demonstrated in the pivotal part Singapore has played, as a global logistics hub, in delivering vaccines to other countries. The vaccine supply chain, starting from a few centres of vaccine production, to safely storing the vaccines, some under cryogenic conditions, and then distributing the vaccines worldwide, was a huge logistical challenge. But, we were able to overcome and more got protected as a result.

Apart from our experience with vaccines, what has facilitated the continued supply of goods to all of us here?  Throughout the pandemic, Singapore’s ports continued operations - almost close to pre-pandemic levels, along with stringent safe management measures. Goods continued flowing into and out of Singapore, our manufacturing kept going, our food supply was largely maintained.  With our ports operating normally, we have attracted many ocean-going vessels to conduct their “crew change” in Singapore, a demonstration of Singapore ports’ resiliency.

So, this pandemic though bad, has also done something good for us – it has caused Singapore to diversify supply sources and develop new supply chains, and even brought some production opportunities back home, such as food and medical supplies.  We have turned the adversity into a strength in building strategic and resilient supply chains, enabling most economic and social activities to continue.

This supply resiliency and strategic mindset has enabled Singapore to bounce back stronger. The monthly passenger air traffic at Changi Airport in May has grown 1340% compared to the same time last year; and airfreight tonnage is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels2. Construction of the new Changi Terminal 5 project is also resuming, with completion expected in the mid-2030s.

So, participants of this year’s Challenge – what is the message you should take with you? We are in a very volatile age, challenges to our way of life are real and menacing and unpredictable – and this is going to last in the years to come. These disturbances will cause disruptions to supply chains and to distribution of goods.  But, there are optimism and opportunity for those involved in the business if they keep on innovating, adopt good forward-looking practices, be proactive to adjust to changing circumstances, build redundancies and resilience in their systems and practices.  It is not an option, it can be a matter of survival for the business, but also for the people waiting for goods, like vaccines, to be supplied. 

The Supply Chain Challenge was developed to create awareness about the SCM/Logistics industry among students from our polytechnics and the ITE; and to encourage you to be a part of the exciting industry. Almost 2,500 students have taken part in this Challenge since its inception, which is an excellent platform to motivate new talent to join the sector.  

The theme of this year’s Challenge - “Building Sustainable Supply Chains through Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Initiatives” is timely and relevant for our disrupted world. To achieve a sustainable supply chain, companies have to address environmental, social, economic and legal concerns across their entire supply chain. A fully sustainable supply chain is one that ensures socially responsible business practices – practices that are not only good for the planet and people who live here, but they also support business growth.  These concerns and practices are not easy to address and implement. 

I trust that all participants today will rise up to the SCC++, put your best foot forward, let your creative juices flow, and offer some best-in-class ideas and solutions to your mentor companies!  Remember, you will be so proud that your innovative, practical and holistic ideas will have the potential to make an impact in reducing waste, environmental footprint, while also improving labour conditions, and the health and safety of workers. 

And here’s another added incentive – I am pleased to announce that all semi-finalists and finalists from SCC++ 2022 will be eligible for a conditional offer of admission into the SUSS full-time degree programme – the Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain Management with Minor.

Finally as I conclude, I would like to leave you with an interesting video.  In this video, you will meet Mr Rayner Loi, a final year student of SUSS, and also CEO & Co-Founder of Luminitics.  Rayner and his team invented an AI-powered waste bin tracker as a result of his passion to reduce food waste.  Today his waste bin trackers are used in luxury hotels, catering companies and even airlines!  Please join me to watch this short video, and be inspired. 

Thank you.




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