Automation, staff training win Koufu a productivity award

Koufu piloted three Smart Tray Return Robots at its foodcourt in Punggol Plaza. The robots have sensors that help them to navigate around tables and encourage patrons to return their trays. The food centre operator was one of 10 companies honoured at the
Koufu piloted three Smart Tray Return Robots at its foodcourt in Punggol Plaza. The robots have sensors that help them to navigate around tables and encourage patrons to return their trays. The food centre operator was one of 10 companies honoured at the Singapore Productivity Awards yesterday. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Automation and technology have been key drivers in raising productivity for food centre operator Koufu over the past seven years.

The group, which runs more than 80 outlets here, halved its food preparation time by automating the production of steamed buns and siew mai at its central kitchens, for instance.

More importantly, it also focuses on skill development, allocating 1 per cent of its total revenue to training and development so there is continuous learning for employees at all levels, including the management.

Koufu's efforts in productivity clinched the group an award of excellence in the food and beverage sector at the Singapore Productivity Awards ceremony yesterday.

"Despite the many competing demands, the company has consciously allocated time and resources to train its employees through regular in-house workshops and external training sessions to improve employees' decision-making and financial skills, as well as their customer service standards," said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran at the event.

"I understand that Koufu's founders... go to the ground to personally share their experiences with their line managers and ground staff during in-house training programmes, which their employees appreciate greatly. Koufu's example clearly shows the benefits of investing in skill development, and that it need not be difficult to execute, even in today's challenging economic environment."

Mr Iswaran acknowledged that, structurally, Singapore has entered a new mode of growth: "Domestic constraints and demographic trends restrict the capacity to grow our labour force. Therefore, productivity growth remains our primary means of achieving sustainable economic growth."

The Government launched Industry Transformation Maps in September as part of its Industry Transformation Programme announced in this year's Budget. These lay out the growth and transformation strategies for 23 industries here.

The maps for the food services, retail and precision engineering industries have been released, and more will follow before the end of the year, said Mr Iswaran.

"Productivity will be crucial for Singapore to achieve sustainable growth in the next phase of our economic development. We need the collective effort of all our stakeholders if we are to succeed in transforming our industries to achieve such growth," he added.

Ten companies were honoured at the awards event last night.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Automation, staff training win Koufu a productivity award'. Print Edition | Subscribe