SINGAPORE - The journey to business excellence proved arduous for environmental packaging firm Greenpac but the rewards are making the effort seem more than worthwhile.
The firm, which bagged a coveted productivity award last night, found the going tough when it adopted a Spring Singapore blueprint eight years back that promised to transform the firm. "We had to implement changes that moved people out of their comfort zones," recalled chief executive Susan Chong.
Spring's business excellence initiative aims to help organisations identify the steps they can take to lift performance and output, which are measured against international benchmarks.
In Greenpac's case, it meant re-engineering designs for its packaging systems in order to create value and bottom-line savings for customers, a process that stretched its resources and 34-strong staff thin.
Its management team also had to adhere to new communication channels to ensure their staff were fully engaged.
"As a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), we were used to the idea of being our own boss, instead of reporting to anybody when making decisions," Ms Chong told The Straits Times on Tuesday.
"So there was some resistance from the staff initially when we set down the new organisational structure."
But seeing the difficult process through has helped Greenpac.
One of its re-engineered packaging machines for medical equipment, for instance, has helped customers save more than $1 million on freight costs and cut storage costs by half.
And the firm's customer-centric business model is a reason why it counts some of the world's largest Fortune 500 companies among its customers today.
Its success in implementing the changes helped Greenpac become the only SME among the seven winners for business excellence at the Business Excellence Awards and Singapore Productivity Awards handed out last night.
"Receiving this award is an important milestone and it will drive the company to raise the bar and scale even greater heights," said Ms Chong.
Other winners at the event held at Raffles City Convention Centre included Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Nestlé Singapore - Jurong Factory.
Six local enterprises also bagged Singapore Productivity Awards, which was given out for the first time in recognition of efforts to raise output.
One was events caterer Neo Group, which upgraded its buffet catering management system and installed mobile data terminals in its delivery vehicles.
The company also introduced various new kitchen automation technologies, including a rotary fryer with an output of 300kg of rice or noodles per hour with one staff operating it. It had previously relied on manual frying, which only yielded 80kg of rice or noodles an hour.
"I know what it is like to be working in an environment that is physically demanding, and I wanted to improve the working conditions for my staff," said founder, chairman and chief executive Neo Kah Kiat.
"In addition to boosting business performance and productivity for the company, (the new technologies and systems) have improved staff morale and retention rate tremendously."
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told the event last night that it was "notable" that most of the winners come from sectors hat are grappling with the challenges of a tight labour market.
"The lesson in each of these examples is simple - the companies took some risks, but embarked on programmes that were doable, and can reap the gains from improved productivity, for their owners as well as employees."
WINNERS OF SINGAPORE QUALITY AWARD
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
Nestlé Singapore - Jurong Factory
OCBC Bank - Consumer Financial Services Singapore
UOB Group Channels
WINNERS OF INNOVATION EXCELLENCE AWARD
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Defence Science and Technology Agency
Honoured for productivity
WINNERS OF SINGAPORE PRODUCTIVITY AWARD
Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium
LF Logistics Services
Pan Asia Logistics Singapore
Sheng Siong Group