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A yard management project abroad – behind the scenes in Singapore

A project abroad of a young OAS employee – beyond the technical details. In this interview with an OAS employee, we are looking behind the scenes of a working day in Singapore. Jesper Müller-Nielsen completed his vocational training as an electronic technician for devices and systems (f/m/d) at OAS AG and is now responsible for the management of production and weighing technology.

"Awesome, gigantic, impressive," this is the description for his thrilling project in Singapore of Jesper Müller-Nielsen, Head of Production of Weighing technology at OAS AG since 2010.

OAS AG repeatedly supervises complex large-scale projects in the field of Yard automation, also beyond the borders of Europe. An important German chemical group, for which OAS AG had equipped a new factory for the production of animal food on site in 2014 already, wanted to put another plant into operation in 2018. Already for the first plant, OAS AG had delivered a complete system including both, the hardware required and the Plant logistics software. The Yard management implemented optimises logistic processes, allows for more efficient loading, and reduces in-plant residence and waiting times of the lorries on site.

Among the sometimes challenging conditions for the start of construction in Singapore, one of the most expensive cities in the world, were not only the distinctive provisions for a work permit, but also the climatic conditions. The artificially created offshore "Jurong Island" serves primarily as an industry site.

How did you get this incredible opportunity?
We all work here in one big team and get along great! The project manager for Yard management asked me whether I would like to give my support to the Singapore project and of course I did not have to think long. The only condition was good English or in this case let's better speak of "Singlish" skills.

How did you prepare?
We had a time line, which had started already 1.5 years before travelling and included preparations for the plant and the corresponding planning but also research regarding customs, entry regulations, and security measures. The work regulations are really different from the European ones. In Singapore, there are strict occupational safety regulations as well. Apart from medical tests / vaccination, we had to pass a 2-days safety instruction including a final test and received a list of "construction site rules" and a "code of conduct". For instance, you are not allowed to chew chewing gum in Singapore. You couldn't even buy it. Above all, our material had to be shipped on time by air freight. Our team has worked hand in hand here.

How were your first impressions, starting with your approach for landing with a view of the city, up to the accommodation?
Awesome, gigantic, impressive AND hot! Due to the high air humidity, the first moment when stepping out of the air-conditioned airport Terminal was like bumping against a wall. But what immediately caught the eye was the cleanliness and the many green spaces. Greenery on the buildings, trees and bushes at every corner, numerous parks. There were an incredible number of people – all with smartphones in hand, sometimes even two – and the various, different, partly spectacular high-rise buildings.   

How and where did you live and who accompanied you?
My colleague and I had a 3-room apartment, right in the city centre for that time. Centrally located, with plenty of opportunities to get to know the cultural and culinary side of the country after work. Eating out in Singapore is much cheaper than cooking for yourself, the food in the supermarkets is expensive. Even an after-work beer was already a luxury, we paid an average of 50 Singapore dollars for 3 beers, which is about 30 Euros. You don't do that often!

How long were you on site?
My working stay was about three and a half weeks, but I had booked three weeks vacation afterwards. Together with a friendly colleague who arrived after the end of the project, we took the opportunity to get to know Malaysia and Indonesia and travel as far as Bali. So, I could combine my professional commitment with private vacations.

Were the Asian construction conditions there different from the European ones?
Apart from the monsoon rains, the heat, and the high humidity, the already mentioned safety standard is very high. In the morning we were brought to the island by a small bus. The driving time was just under one and a half hours, which was not only due to the typical "rush hour", but also to the access control. Access to the island was through a customs-like gate, where several armed military officials controlled the access permits.

How was the collaboration with the Asian colleagues on site?
It was a cooperative atmosphere, we had positive experiences throughout. The locals are very helpful and committed, despite their rather reserved nature. Irritating for us was the approach to individual small work processes. For material removal, such as screws or work clothes, several permits had to be obtained from different people, which naturally took time.

What were your experiences on site with the country and its people?
Friendly and helpful people who are extremely "busy". A normal working day there has about 10 hours. An impressive city with great sights, from the famous "Marina Bay Hotel" with infinity pool on the roof, to "Gardens by the Bay" with futuristic, tree-like, illuminated structures ranging in heights from 25 to 50 meters and of course the huge selection of delicacies at the food stands. Yes, I tested the insect snacks!!! But also those to us normal dishes with rice, chicken, curry. Extremely delicious!

What did your working day look like?
The daily working time was about 10 hours, depending on workload and activity. Departure from our apartment was at about 6.00/6.30 a.m., so we were on the island at about 7.30/8.00 a.m. and at about 5.00/6.00 p.m. we left . There were many a long day, but as exhausting as it was, it was fun!

Are there always projects abroad in which trainees or new employees are allowed to participate or is a new project of this size currently being planned?
Yes, we have projects abroad from time to time, mostly in Europe, depending on the department. Especially our trainees pass through every department at our company and who knows, maybe an opportunity similar to mine will arise?!

Your personal conclusion?
Instantly again – awesome experience! To get to know a foreign mentality and a different working culture, so many different impressions were really an experience for me.

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