Moving with the times

L-R: Muhamad Rifai Bin Mohd Jiwa, 34, operations field manager, Gideon Lam, 40, chief executive , Gabriel Lam, 35, chief operating officer, Vincent Ng, 33, assistant operations manager, Ahmad Senin Bin Huri , 55, operations field manager at Shalom's
L-R: Muhamad Rifai Bin Mohd Jiwa, 34, operations field manager, Gideon Lam, 40, chief executive , Gabriel Lam, 35, chief operating officer, Vincent Ng, 33, assistant operations manager, Ahmad Senin Bin Huri , 55, operations field manager at Shalom's office at Ubi. PHOTO: SKILLSFUTURE SINGAPORE

The logistics sector does not have to be a solely manual affair, as Shalom Movers proves with its digital journey over the years.

The firm began as a one-man, one-van company by their father in 1982. It now offers relocation and warehouse storage services among others, and has made it a point to stay ahead of the digital curve not just for the company but also its staff.

Chief Executive Gideon Lam, 40, tells The Straits Times: “When the business first started in 1982, invoices used to be handwritten, then we had telex machines and later fax machines, which were already part of digitalisation.”

“Then our guys moved from having pagers to handphones, and we moved on to emails and computers, and having our own servers in the office at least five years ago.”

These efforts have laid the foundation for Shalom Movers to use new digital solutions such as a fleet and transport management system in 2014, which costs several hundred thousands.

It is also in the process of building a new customer relationship management system, which will not only enhance the customer experience but also aid in Shalom Movers’ expansion plans – to open at least five offices globally in the next five years, among other goals.

Mr Lam said: “We invested in technology throughout the years as it was the only thing that could give us an upper hand, it is like having a handphone in the 1980s, the advantage over competition would be faster communication with our customers and staff.”

His younger brother Gabriel, 35, Chief Operating Officer at Shalom Movers, adds another reason for going digital: “Normally in this industry, the rank-and-file staff take a much longer time to adapt and change, so we need to be the trendsetters or early adopters, so by the time the main bulk of the industry is using any technology, our people are already well-versed in it.”

Shalom Movers has also grown from one staff in 1982 to over 150 employees today.

Mr Gideon Lam attributes it to the firm’s commitment to staying ahead and investing in developing its people.

He recalls: “In the 1990s we used to buy training videos and curriculum from Australia or different logistics associations from overseas, and wrote our own course plans.”

“Over time, we worked with schools such as Institute of Technical Education, and the Institute for Adult Learning, an institute of SkillsFuture Singapore, to train our staff to be better mentors.”

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Shalom Movers is also working towards becoming a training organisation accredited under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications System (WSQ), and has used the Skills Framework for Logistics to identify current and relevant skills to design learning programmes for its staff.

In addition, its staff have attended the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace programme which helped build digital confidence in those who are not technologically-savvy.

Shalom Movers tapped on the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) Agency for Productivity Practices, Human Resource and Industrial Relations – also known as Sapphire – to diagnose its human resources challenges and help align HR plans to its business strategy last year.

The firm sets aside at least $1,000 for each employee’s training needs each year, and notes that government grants make skills upgrading affordable.

Staff have gone for courses in several areas such as data analytics, search engine optimisation and the like. After completing their courses, Shalom Movers holds its own graduation ceremonies, turning them into a family affair.

Mr Ahmad Senin Bin Huri, 55, who joined the firm in 2003 as a lorry driver is now an operations field manager, says: “I’m happy that from the time I’ve started working at Shalom, there has been a clear progression path and constant opportunities to upgrade. The training over the years has been valuable in equipping me with new skill sets and enabling me to perform better at my job.’

Mr Gabriel Lam adds that the firm is known for its belief in education and learning development: “Some of our employees don’t have formal education and the pre-requisites to further their studies but their experience counts for something and they can become certified trainers at our firm.”

“It works as we are like a family. In this industry, the staff turnover period is three to six months, but we’ve more than 30 staff who’ve been with us for at least 10 years. Over the years, they age and may not be able to carry things as well, but we develop a pathway for them that allows them to continue to contribute and grow with the company.”

And digitalisation is part and parcel of the firm’s transition, says Mr Gideon Lam, who adds: “Going digital and digitalisation are totally different. You can have the equipment, but if you don’t know how to perform data analytics, then it is just data collection which may not be helpful.”

In collaboration with SkillsFuture