Robo-cutter To Change Landscaping Landscape

All your grass are belong to Robo-cutter
All your grass are belong to Robo-cutter

I was invited to check out a demonstration of this machine called the “Robo-Cutter” and I got really excited because, WTF, it’s a robot that cuts grass, right?

No it wasn’t what I expected – there wasn’t any artificial intelligence about it, and it couldn’t deploy itself automatically where it sensed the grass was tall. It was really just a remote controlled grass-cutting tractor.

I put my disappointment aside, and spoke to the person who was heading the demonstration, Mr Neo Say Hwee of Ho Eng Huat Construction Pte Ltd.

He had purchased the Robo-Cutter for something close to $100,000. Close to half of it was subsidised by the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), which has a grant called the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP).

In one fell swoop, Mr Neo cut down on his reliance for cheap foreign labour, which was utilised in landscape maintenance tasks for the old grass cutters. The Robo-Cutter can now do the equivalent job of half a dozen masked men (grass-cutting ninjas), while using only one trained operator.

While I don’t have the exact numbers to crunch, I think that while the government continues to tighten the supply of cheap foreign labour, companies like Mr Neo’s will still stride forward when grants like IGP are applied judiciously to help innovative additions, like the Robo-Cutter.

More importantly, the employees trained to operate these smart machineries will be able to be paid more. The job is also made easier and safer as they are able to operate the machine from a distance under the shade, lowering the possibilities of heat and other injuries.

This, I think is the best way to go about the increasing required wage. A mandatory minimum wage level with nothing else is just going to see companies like Mr Neo’s being forced to pay more for grass-cutting ninjas, and the costs inevitably will be passed on to their clients.

Unfortunately, many maintenance contracts in this particular sector are still mired in old terms and requirements. They restrict companies’ ability to take the leap and innovate, like how Mr Neo has done with his company.

Contracts still stipulate how many persons are required to do the job, and buyers tend to want a discount when you tell them you are going to use fewer men. Worse, some may be shocked and not want to award you the contract when you tell them you are going to use a robot and one man.

Terms need to be changed. Buyers need to know that the essence of the contract is in whether a job can be done well and quickly, regardless of how many people are used. With the labour supply crunch several industries are facing, it will make the most sense to do this, and make the best use of every worker by giving them the best work opportunities and do the best to reward them once the job is done in a safer and more efficient way.

As you can see, it takes an effort in concert – the buyer, the contractor and the worker have to change the way things are done in order to move this along, in order for all three parties to benefit.

When I’ve worn my other hat as a small business and start up consultant, I’ve heard excuses like “I dowan to take Gahmen money sekali got strings attached”, or “Customer don’t want to change contract”, even when presented with really, really attractive grants and cash incentives which have no strings attached (unless you think that “strings” include paying taxes).

It is exasperating. If these companies don’t revisit the opportunities available now to benefit everyone, they’re going to be in for a rough ride when they’re left behind, while the early adopters reap the benefits of a transformed economy.

It is timely this National Day (the one before the Big 50) that we pay heed to these steps and not just wish for it to happen. We need to work towards this transformation. The buck stops with everyone.

Proposed Structure
Proposed Structure

My Paperless Pledge

Not too long ago, I instituted a paperless policy for my office – I have another hat I wear as a start-up and company consultant – where, as far as possible, I’d force my clients to go paperless as well.

There is no reason to get something printed out on paper when the electronic version was and is the original document of authority. For example, an ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) confirmation on a successful registration of a company is sent via email, and there is absolutely no need to print it out to make it any more successful.

Yet, every single audit firm (and their staff) that I know insist on photocopying or printing these things, because they need to verify the document’s authenticity and originality. This is what I will never understand. But since they’re doing a job for clients of mine (and they’re paid by my clients), I can’t do much except charge them 10 cents for every page printed.

Then there was this client who insisted on having paper invoices sent to him even though he had computers and a working email account, because he claimed that IRAS, ACRA and his auditors required him to collect and keep original paper invoices.

So I told him that IRAS and ACRA had no such rule, and “keeping of accurate records” did not mean that they had to be paper records. He disagreed, and terminated our services for another provider who happily gave him as much paper as he liked.

There are so many tools available to SMEs to keep everything accurately and safely stored in the cloud that there really is no excuse these days to keep files and reams of paper in the office. With this year’s introduction of FAST internet bank transfers, posting a cheque to pay for a bill is becoming a mere excuse to pay that bill late(r).

Detractors point to the dangers of online fraud as a reason not to adopt electronic transfers, even if it’s clear that it’s easier to forge a cheque than to escape the various electronic trails that precede and follow an internet banking transaction.

So, I actually made this “Paperless Pledge” a year ago, and despite getting fired by one client, I’m determined to keep this policy intact. I’m glad to even report that I’m looking for ways to terminate my hire-purchase of my office multifunction printer because we now use it so infrequently.

If you’ve got a similar pledge to mine, let me know, and together we can help plant trees instead of killing them. This is just a small choice to make – whether you print something out or not – but it can make a world of difference.

Make a wish and take the Pledge for Change with me and Kleenex Singapore – You can submit your pledges on Kleenex Singapore’s Facebook Pledge App (https://www.facebook.com/kleenexsg/app_283737521804501). For every 20 wishes placed on the Kleenex Wishing Tree, a real tree will be planted.

My Birthday Wish? A Sea Of Tranquility

When I was in kindergarten, I told my friends I was born on the moon, because I was confused by what my mother and relatives told me.

The Apollo 11 mission had landed on the moon about three hours after I was born, and the excitement was such that my mother said she was asked by the doctors and other people if she’d name me after the mission or parts thereof.

I could’ve been Neil, Armstrong, Eagle, Columbia, Apollo or Eleven. I don’t think Sea of Tranquility was in the mix.

But I remember really believing I was born on the moon, and always dreamt that by the time I turned 30, there’d have been real bases built on the moon for people to, you know, visit and stuff. (I was a big fan of Space 1999).

But it’s been 42 years since the last man walked on the moon. Maybe it’s time we went further.

And Tango Makes A Fascist Chief Librarian

And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express were taken off the shelves by The Chief Librarian Tay Ai Cheng because they were not “pro-family”, which is now the same thing as anti-gay and anti anything other than “1 father + 1 mother + 3 or more children (if you can afford it)”, as stated in the complaint by Teo Kai Loon.

Please, all who are on the side of compassion and even sanity, nobody is forcing you or your families to be pro-gay or gay. Nobody is asking you to promote teenage pregnancies. Nobody is asking you to promote single parenting.

But I beg you to wake up and look around you. These things happen. Please SUPPORT, not PROMOTE, teenaged, single, widowed parents and whatever is left of their families! These books are part of a community lifeline for children who through no fault of their own, have been labelled “illegitimate”.

You don’t have to borrow these books if you or your children don’t need these stories. But don’t deprive others who do, and for crying out loud, Tango Makes Three is a true story.