Why locals are key to manufacturing
Ashwani Kumar/Abu Dhabi
Filed on 30/03/2017

Why locals are key to manufacturing

Women also making their mark; advanced tech key to healthcare 

The Tawazun Economic Council and Tawazun Holding have an excellent industrial strategy in place to woo more nationals into its fold.

"It's a snowball effect," chief executive officer Saif Al Hajeri said during a session on "Human Capital, Innovation, Diversification and Global Safety and Security" at the Global Manufacturing and Industralisation Summit (GMIS) on Thursday. Tawazun Holding is a strategic investment firm with a specific focus on the defence sector.

Al Hajeri said the UAE and the region need to be ready for life after oil and manufacturing is a key area to concentrate. He said manufacturing is a new sector in the UAE and requires capable nationals.

"'UAE-made by UAE hands' is a challenge as you need to have the right skills, create the right environment, prepare them with the right programmes."

Realising the challenges, Tawazun created its own training centre and worked with universities to bridge gap of human capital skills and work requirements.

"It was difficult to convince and bring the locals to the floor, to operate machines. Using locals as assemblers, technicians and others was new. But it has grown very quickly. The more locals you have, the more [will come]. It's a snowball effect."

Al Hajeri said it was difficult to compete with oil and energy companies to have a technician to join their factories.

"We held lectures at universities. We invited them to our factories and even got their parents to show where we were going. We gave hands-on projects and CNC machines to operate. Also having training centre near to factories helped us. We gave new engineers projects to work on at factories and overseas. You have to give them trust and challenging work. And that was the trick."

Talking about diversification, he stressed the future of manufacturing requires strong small and medium enterprises.

"We have an SME programme in each emirate. We can't go to global market without SMEs. We encourage big companies to give them chance. We also try to develop projects with them."

The chief executive said to have made 'good results' through technology transfer.

"In any business or defence procurement deal, Tawazun pushes foreign companies to share technology with the UAE. It is important for locals to understand the technology. We work with universities to modify the technology and even make it part of their curriculum. Later on this technology has to transform into a product and be exported. We have worked closely with Boeing to bring technology to Strata. We work closely with other defence companies to bring advanced material to the UAE - laser technology, autonomous system and others. We make good result out of them."

Women in manufacturing? You think it's difficult, but it's not

Al Hajeri said with women joining the manufacturing industry, the more he finds less space for men.

Moreover, he is targeting the children of these women as potential drivers of the country's manufacturing sector.

But is it easy to get women to work in factory?

"You think it's difficult but it's not. Once you start hiring local women then you don't want to hire guys. We created a programme called Daylight in 2009. It was four to six months with women over Grade 9 plus. Most of the women were housewives and mothers. We created a nursery for their babies. We created a passion for them to understand value of their work and how it contributes to the company and country. We were flexible in timing, provide transportation."

All these, he says, worked very well. He cited an example of a woman, who cried while telling that she will miss a day of training as her son was sick.

"She regretted missing a day of training. It was a strong message of passion. But our target is not those women but kids in those nurseries. They are going to be innovators of the future. That is the message we want to create. We are ensuring we have right work forces. We are changing the culture."

Advanced tech to boost healthcare sector

Improved standards and advancements in technology have revolutionised the healthcare industry and related sectors such as pharmaceuticals, panelists said during a session at the GMIS.

Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, assistant under-secretary for the Public Health Policy and Licence Sector at UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, opened the discussion with a presentation on the UAE health sector, highlighting the need for public-private partnerships, and the opportunities for the healthcare industry in the UAE. He highlighted that regulators need to embrace technology for the future of the industry.

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said: "The only way to achieve value-based healthcare is by investing in advanced technology. Today, we are riding the cusp of a technological wave that promises to create an array of patient-centric services that will disrupt almost every aspect of healthcare, from delivery to advanced medical devices to pharmaceuticals and everything in between. The impact of these technological advancements on healthcare will bring untold benefits to patients, healthcare professionals and insurers in terms of convenience, specificity, cost and outcome."

Jean-Paul Scheuer, Sanofi country chair and general manager for Gulf countries and Yemen, highlighted how the pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a major transformation, and how technology is enabling new and advanced treatments for patients. He called out the emergence of individualised medicine, and how the pharmaceutical industry needs to keep up with these trends.