InDiplomacy, a publication and online portal by Sun Media, spoke with Mr. Lennon Tan, President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), the premier organization for advocacy and support in the manufacturing sector.

Sun Media: Singapore is a brand on its own. Recently, there was news that AstraZeneca is going to invest over $1 billion in Singaporean manufacturing. Traditionally, Singapore is known more for services than manufacturing. Would you like to change that perception?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Yes, indeed. While Singapore is well-known for its services sector, which is a significant part of our economy, contributing about 16%, it’s important to note that manufacturing is actually the largest pillar, contributing around 20% on average.

Sun Media: How does SMF facilitate businesses in the manufacturing sector, especially in Singapore?

Mr. Lennon Tan: The Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), founded in 1932, has grown from 17 companies to about 5,000 members across ten industry groups. For example, we started with companies like Ford Motors and Coca-Cola. Today, our diverse membership spans various sectors, including the second largest, medical and life sciences. We engage with our members through organized industry groups, each with its own committee, focusing on networking and events. Additionally, we have horizontal activities that cut across all industry groups, addressing policies and international collaborations.

Sun Media: How does SMF engage with its members and facilitate their needs?

Mr. Lennon Tan: We organize ourselves into ten different industry groups, each with its own committee. These groups focus on specific industry needs through events and networking. We also have horizontal activities that involve different international agencies and companies, discussing policies and how we can help shape government policies that impact manufacturing.

Sun Media: How does the relationship between the government sector and the private sector work in Singapore?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Singapore’s government takes a consultative approach, working closely with companies and workers. We have a tripartite relationship, meaning the government, companies, and workers collaborate. SMF is often consulted on policy changes, especially those related to manpower, ensuring that we work in sync to benefit the manufacturing sector.

Sun Media: You are a successful businessman. How do you see things differently as a leader in the manufacturing sector?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Leading SMF requires a broader perspective than running a single business. We must consider various factors that affect manufacturing, such as rising costs and geopolitical influences. Despite these challenges, we strive to keep manufacturing relevant in Singapore by maintaining a delicate balance between productivity and cost.

Sun Media: How does SMF maintain relevance despite rising costs and competition from other ASEAN countries?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Despite higher costs, many MNCs choose Singapore for its stable political environment and strategic location. We emphasize productivity and have strategies like SHIP, focusing on sustainability, human capital, internationalization, and productivity. This helps us attract and retain significant investments, like AstraZeneca’s.

Sun Media: How do you engage with other countries and their embassies to facilitate international business?

Mr. Lennon Tan: We collaborate with embassies and organizations like Sun Media to introduce investment opportunities and engage with international diplomats and businesses. We organize events, mission trips, and networking platforms to foster these relationships and help our members explore overseas markets.

Sun Media: Are you connected with other trade associations globally, and how do you work with them?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Yes, we collaborate with international trade associations through events, exhibitions, and mission trips. We create opportunities for businesses to interact and explore collaborations, which can lead to significant trade and investment opportunities.

Sun Media: After COVID-19, supply chain issues have been a major concern. How has SMF addressed these challenges?

Mr. Lennon Tan: During COVID-19, medical and food supply chains were particularly impacted. We diversified our supply sources and helped our members adapt by focusing on resilience and flexibility in their supply chains, ensuring they could continue operations smoothly.

Sun Media: With Singapore’s new prime minister, what changes do you foresee for international companies wanting to do business here?

Mr. Lennon Tan: The new prime minister aims to continue Singapore’s policies of being a popular investment destination. There is a strong focus on enabling local SMEs to work closely with multinationals, not just in contract work but in joint development, making our supply chain indispensable.

Sun Media: Singapore is often seen as a model for success. What do you think contributes to this perception?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Singapore has a reputation for trustworthiness and delivering on promises. Our GDP growth and high per capita income are testaments to our success. We aim to be exceptional by addressing issues like sustainability, climate change, and gender equality, ensuring we remain a global leader.

Sun Media: How does SMF promote sustainable practices and gender equality among its members?

Mr. Lennon Tan: Sustainability is a key focus for us. We launched a Chief Sustainability Officer as a Service programme to help companies develop ESG policies and understand their carbon footprints. We provide incentives and certifications like the Green Excellence Manufacturing certification, recognized by 37 countries, to encourage sustainable practices.

Sun Media: As a businessman, how have you adapted to changing business landscapes?

Mr. Lennon Tan: My journey has been about transformation. I shifted from producing physical credit cards to automation and big data services, constantly adapting to new market needs. In today’s world, continuous transformation is essential for success.

Sun Media: Sun Media has been working with diplomatic missions for the last 25 years. We are organizing the World Opportunities Forum and a Diplomatic Ball to celebrate this milestone. How can SMF support and participate in these events?

Mr. Lennon Tan: These events sound exciting and optimistic. Congratulations on your 100th issue. We would be happy to support and participate, providing our members with opportunities to explore new business avenues and celebrate this significant milestone with you. Thank you for the invitation.

Mr. Tan concluded the interview by expressing optimism about Singapore’s future in manufacturing and the SMF’s ongoing efforts to support its members in navigating the evolving economic landscape.

Singapore Manufacturing Federation will partner with Sun Media for the upcoming “World Opportunities Forum” and “Diplomatic Awards and Ball,” which will be held as commemoration events for Sun Media’s Silver anniversary and 100th edition of INDiplomacy.

The interview is part of “Shining Singapore Interview and Podcast series”.Sun Media interviewed Mr. Lennon Tan, the President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), the premier organization for advocacy and support in the manufacturing sector, Mr. Lennon Tan currently holds the positions of President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and Group Chairman of ADERA Global Group. As a prominent figure in Singapore’s manufacturing and business sectors, he plays a crucial role in shaping industry standards and fostering international collaborations. Sun Media is proud to present a series of interviews highlighting key industry insights. This interview is part of Sun Media’s celebration of their 25th anniversary and was conducted by their Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Nomita Dhar.