Certified for cutting energy usage

Mr Vincent Lim, 36, HR and administration manager of Yeo Hong Construction and Engineering, spoke about the company's experience in attaining the ISO 50001 certification.
Mr Vincent Lim, 36, HR and administration manager of Yeo Hong Construction and Engineering, spoke about the company's experience in attaining the ISO 50001 certification. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Complying with industry standards might be laborious but it can help firms lower operating costs and improve revenue. Jeremy Koh discovers how meeting stringent guidelines has helped Yeo Hong Construction & Engineering save cash.

Q Tell us about your business.

A Although Yeo Hong's company name has the words "construction and engineering", we don't do typical construction work.

Rather, we construct and maintain chemical plants - plants where products are made through chemical processes. These might process crude oil or manufacture pharmaceuticals, food products or gases.

Clients first engage consultants on the plant's design. When that has been decided on, the clients offer a tender. That is where we make an offer to build the entire plant or part of it.

If we are awarded the contract, we then execute the plan, which could involve installing pipes and building plant equipment, etc.

We also service and maintain chemical plants.

Q How did the company start?

A Our founder Yeo Kah Poh started this company in 1973 when he was about 30 years old.

The company initially only maintained chemical plants. As we grew in experience, we provided more technical services and moved into building the plants to increase revenue and profits. As we expanded, we hired engineers, safety staff, quality control staff and more construction workers.

Q How much has the business expanded?

A We started with only $200,000 when we were incorporated in 1981. Now we have about $5 million in capital. Our annual revenue was about $13 million last year.

We started with around 20 to 30 employees. Now, we have about 140 engineers, safety staff, quality control workers, construction workers and administrative and management staff.

Q Are the current numbers sufficient for your projects?

A The industry has evolved to a place where our company can now engage sub-contractors to fill certain manpower needs, whereas in the past we had to execute the entire project on our own.

It is not economical for us to maintain a group of staff in some areas which we do not specialise in. For example, we outsource crane work when it is needed.

Q Which ISO certification did the company obtain recently?

A We attained the ISO50001 certification, which requires companies to develop a framework by which to regularly monitor and improve energy usage efficiency.

Q Why did you think the certification would be helpful?

A In 2012, the Government mandated that companies with relatively high energy consumption implement an energy management system.

Our clients are high energy consumers and we thought they would eventually expect us to have an energy management framework of our own. Attaining the certification was a means of developing this.

Besides, this standard also helps us reduce costs and contributes to environment conservation. Spring Singapore supported us through the Capability Development Grant.

Q What were the challenges you faced in implementing this standard?

A To become more energy efficient, we first needed to find out how much energy each power component of our company consumed.

A lot of effort was spent installing energy meters to track this and manipulating the collected data. For instance, we measured how much electricity each fluorescent tube consumed.

Q What were the main changes that came about?

A We found that our window air- conditioner units were consuming a relatively large amount of power, as they are built to run at full capacity all day. So we replaced them with air-conditioner inverter units, which use less electricity.

We also replaced our fluorescent lights with more energy-efficient lights which consume three to four times less energy. Also, we installed motion sensor lights in worker dormitories.

After seeing the benefits of these measures, we installed solar panels on top of a newly constructed building within our compound a year later. The panels can generate up to half the building's required energy.

Q How long did it take to obtain the certification?

A It took about 13 months to develop the energy management framework, implement the first round of changes and obtain certification.

Q How much did the changes cost?

A It cost about $45,000 to replace the air-conditioning units and light bulbs, and install motion sensor lighting. The upgrading took about three months.

Q How much have you saved?

A Our power is derived from energy and fuel. We have saved about $60,000 in fuel over two years. We also reduced our electricity consumption by approximately 50 per cent. We are hoping to generate approximately $6,000 worth of electricity a year from the solar panels.

Q What other changes do you have planned for the future?

A The good thing about this standard is that it does not require us to replace functioning equipment immediately. In future, we will purchase more energy-efficient equipment.

Also, we will maintain our current practices and constantly look out for any areas for improvements.

Q Are you looking to expand overseas?

A We have taken on a few overseas projects before but managing them was not easy because they involved hiring workers from these countries. They were not as easy to manage sometimes due to their different working habits. We were also not familiar with the legislation as these were new markets to us.

If the overseas contract requires us to manufacture a product in Singapore for a foreign firm, without requiring us to have a presence in a foreign country, we are open to it .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Certified for cutting energy usage'. Print Edition | Subscribe