Should SMEs go Digital?

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Digital Transformation - Should SMEs go Digital?

Industry 4.0, digital transformation and automated technologies - these are just a few industry developments confronting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) today. 

Mr Sam Chee Wah, General Manager of Feinmetall Singapore, shares his company's experience and provides practical ideas on how SMEs can overcome challenges and 'go digital' to improve business agility, competitiveness, and growth. 

German-Singapore precision engineering joint venture Feinmetall Singapore (Feinmetall) is a leading one-stop turnkey design, manufacturing, testing, and service centre for semiconductor wafer probe cards. With 60 employees today, the company has grown from its humble roots in 2007 when it was five-man repair centre. Mr Sam attributes this steady growth to the company’s decision to embark on digital transformation. 

He elaborated, “Global trends affect all businesses, including SMEs. In 2016, we started to see rapid adoption of digitalisation globally, along with increasing customer expectations and demand. Digital transformation was not so much as a choice but something we knew we had to invest in, to stay competitive and to survive.” 

Feinmetall was amongst the first in Singapore’s manufacturing industry to embrace digital transformation. “From the start, we recognised that digital transformation is a journey,” shared Mr Sam. “We learnt that the way to make progress was to actively implement, observe, analyse, change, and fine-tune our systems and processes, working collaboratively with our partners and customers.”

Those who put off digital transformation will struggle to keep pace with more technologically advanced players – there’s no time like the present to act!
Mr Sam Chee Wah
General Manager of Feinmetall Singapore

Feinmetall’s S$6 Million Digital Manufacturing Facility


Tapping on A*STAR’s Technology for Enterprise 
Capability Upgrading (T-UP)
 programme to drive R&D processes and 
Operation and Technology Road (OTR) mapping initiative


Leveraging A*STAR Model Factory Initiative Technologies 
to drive competitiveness


Increasing productivity and improving work processes at Feinmetall through digitalisation

Overcoming Challenges

As an early adopter, Feinmetall encountered many challenges, including identifying suitable solutions and securing funding for its transformation goals. With limited knowledge on technology and no precedents in the field, they turned to a public-private partnership with A*STAR. 

To facilitate transition, employees received extensive skills training in the new systems and experienced staff were trained to take on supervisory roles. Part of Feinmetall’s success is attributed to its employees’ receptiveness to balancing skills training, new digital processes, and existing workloads. “When managed carefully, this transition would ultimately enable us to create higher value products and services, jobs, and returns,” remarked Mr Sam. 

The company also invested in new ergonomic office equipment to enhance worker performance, health, and safety. Mr Sam shared, “Employees could see the benefits and how their experience and knowledge would add value to the company. We also encouraged knowledge transfer to fully engage our employees in the change process.”

Reaping Benefits and New Opportunities

08-Money bag

Invested over $1.5million

Believes many opportunities will come to develop new business processes, strengthen customer loyalty & employee satisfaction



A host of technology solutions which analyse machine data, develop measures to minimize stoppage & plan machine maintenance raised productivity by 10 – 15 %



Recipient of five consecutive E50 Awards & is the first water probe care company to receive Singapore Quality Class (SQC) certification.

Since digitalising the business, automation has improved operational efficiencies and productivity, such as for its Manufacturing Control Tower. Designed by SIMTech, a research institute under A*STAR, the automated planning system boosts efficiency through live status updates of orders via a visual and intuitive interface, empowering employees to prioritise pressing orders. 

A higher level of productivity helped improve customer communications and collaboration through mobile apps, such as Feinmetall Application and Maintenance E-portal (FAME), which offer video help services. 

Mr Sam believes that SMEs can benefit greatly from the switch to digital. Feinmetall’s reputation as an advanced precision engineering company has been enhanced through automation and streamlining of internal processes. “Automating routine tasks has boosted staff productivity, satisfaction, and morale,” shared Mr Sam. “Employee development is keeping pace with technology advancements today. Jobs are more meaningful as employees are performing more skilled tasks that add value to our business.” 

Mr Sam believes that innovative digital projects and strategic collaborations with industry partners will drive long-term plans and success for the company. He added, “Any SME that wants to stay ahead in this fast-changing global digital economy needs to be constantly thinking about its goals and how it can improve.”