Pan-United CEO: Change in mindset key to staying ahead

Ms May Ng points to "the dynamic needs of Asean's infrastructure growth" as a driver for Pan-United's concrete business.
Ms May Ng points to "the dynamic needs of Asean's infrastructure growth" as a driver for Pan-United's concrete business.PHOTO: PAN-UNITED

Ms May Ng Bee Bee became executive director at Pan-United Corporation in 2004 and took over the reins at the family business as chief executive in 2011.

The leading ready-mixed concrete and cement supplier has its roots in a marine equipment supplier co-founded in 1958 by Ms Ng's father, Mr Ng Kar Cheong, now 83.

He took over the Pan-United unit in 1982 after one of his original partners died, and stepped down from the company in 1993, when it was listed on the Singapore Exchange.

In both its marine and construction business - which it entered in 1965 - Pan-United has a track record in the South-east Asian market. It now operates in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Singapore and China.

Ms Ng, 49, says: "As a proudly home-grown company, Pan-United can take cues from Asean's efforts by maintaining a similar outward-looking stance and cultivating collaborative efforts with our Asean partners."

The group entered the aggregate quarrying business in Indonesia's Riau Islands in 1990, and did the same in Malaysia 10 years later.

It also set up United Cement - now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the group - as a joint venture with Malaysia's Kedah Cement in 1993.

Pan-United Concrete, which opened shop in 1999 as a ready- mixed concrete supplier here, expanded to Vietnam with a joint-venture company in 2011.

Last year, it opened a new high-capacity batching plant in Jakarta. And the group intends to have a slag grinding plant up and running across the Causeway in Johor by next year.

Ms Ng points to "the dynamic needs of Asean's infrastructure growth" as a driver for the company's concrete business. Amid softer demand in Singapore, it has banked on its regionalisation strategy to fuel its longer-term growth, with an eye to developing new markets in the South-east Asian countries where it operates.

But she cautions: "Many companies in the region are not transforming fast enough. Our mindsets have to change, and we have to continuously innovate to develop better solutions and offer differentiated customer experience."

This includes investing in innovation and technology, which Pan-United has done through a five-year-old research and development facility that works on designing tailor-made concrete products for clients. Vertical integration and regional partnerships are also on the table.

"Businesses will be operating at sub-scale levels with the availability of technology and the capabilities that it offers," Ms Ng says. "Companies must collaborate with others within their countries and across the borders to scale up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Pan-United CEO: Change in mindset key to staying ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe