The pandemic was an impetus to change the way manufacturers in Singapore, particularly the small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), do business. Many took the opportunity to invest in digitalisation, re-examine their business model, and strengthen their processes.
While this helps to create new revenue sources and gain competitive advantage, it also opens manufacturers up to potential vulnerabilities that can play into the financials and impact daily operations.
We spoke to some of our local manufacturing clients to find out their top-of-mind risks as they scale growth in 2022 and beyond. Let’s take a look.
1. Cybersecurity concerns are real
Embracing digitalisation – be it adoption of Industry 4.0 or 5G technologies - is a positive step, but some manufacturers may be diving in without fully understanding the risks. As companies digitalise more of their operations, they create more entry points into their systems. This increases their exposure to unauthorised access and cyber incidents, which can create a rapid downward spiral for the business.
Their entire operations could be suspended if the factory floor shuts down and complex cyber-connected manufacturing systems can be hard to restore. Moreover, as automation techniques advance and usage of cloud-based applications increases, manufacturers are challenged to securely integrate older legacy systems (i.e. older machines that were not built for security that may now need to be connected).
Despite efforts to protect proprietary information and data, secure networks and systems could still be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Risks are compounded as Singapore’s manufacturing workforce takes on hybrid work arrangements.
In fact, SME manufacturers, with their low or no investment in cyber security measures, are ideal targets for cyber criminals.
2. New offerings bring new risk possibilities
Shifts in customer needs and demand have prompted manufacturers to switch from a product-only model to selling value-added services (such as installation, maintenance, financing and consulting) to increase customer stickiness and reap in more revenue.
Moreover, technology has also altered what manufacturers make. Smart products (i.e. products equipped with microchips, sensors, and other electronic components) are more commonplace on many manufacturers’ production lines.
With most manufacturers adding services or changing products or both, manufacturers may be exposed to new threats and liabilities. Smart products and network-connected devices for instance, are susceptible to digital malfunction and unauthorised access resulting in failure to perform or loss of use issues for end users.
Such examples of product or service performance failure, not meeting customer expectations or contract specifications could result in serious financial injury and reputational damage, especially when a product recall or litigation is involved.
3. Endless sources of operational interruption
Even manufacturers with the best-laid strategic and tactical plans are likely to have their operations impacted by unforeseeable and challenging events – some might be preventable (e.g. human error), others are not (e.g. COVID-19 or more simply, a bad day in the office). For instance:
When something unexpected happens, companies sometimes hurriedly make changes to business practices and procedures, which could bring about risks.
These internal vulnerabilities can also have external implications, incurring losses and disruptions to a third party. For example, a critical piece of machinery can stop working at any time, resulting in mechanical breakdown and suspension of not just your business operations, but that of your customers too. Ultimately, this could lead to a myriad of issues like financial loss from compensation to customers, loss of reputation and trust, or even regulatory actions.
This is why manufacturers are rightfully nervous about the growing set of internal risks their companies face today and tomorrow – and understanding them is a necessary first step to prepare for potential disruptions. As companies march towards recovery and future growth, maintaining an inward view as well as prioritising a path to operational resilience and agility will be key.
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