Whenever they start on a new project, Tacam Steel employees would find themselves poring over a massive Excel spreadsheet, with only one person having access to it at any one time.
This made collecting data time-consuming and a pain for the manufacturing firm, which makes customised steel doors and offers other solutions.
General manager Brian Wong says: "Our key document used to track workflow was usually a giant Excel spreadsheet per project, created from scratch."
The firm had to manufacture and install almost 2,000 doors for Changi Airport's Terminal 4, resulting in a spreadsheet with more than 2,700 rows and 100 columns.
"The doors have different sizes and requirements, and all these have to be tracked, such as if a particular door is going out of the factory or if it is being installed.
"That was the main thing we were trying to automate. If you're unlucky, some errors won't be found out until the end," says Mr Wong.
However, adopting a new Web-based enterprise system customised to Tacam Steel's needs has shaved off about $4,500 in manpower costs each month, and reduced paperwork and human errors.
The firm, which has executed projects for Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 and Resorts World Sentosa, started using Enhanzcom's Fitprise software to digitise and manage workflow processes in March. It cost about $60,000 after grants.
Fitprise is a customisable and scalable software management system produced by Enhanzcom, which has been offering tailor-made solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) since 2007, with more than 100 clients served here.
The software firm licensed the so-called unified configurable architecture platform, which forms Fitprise's foundation, from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).
Mr Wong says: "Before implementation, we developed four different general templates based on clients' needs.
"With a new project, the sales team, for instance, can select and populate the relevant template, saving time and increasing accuracy. A generated checklist also ensures important details by other departments are entered before uploading."
He added there are fewer errors made, and those working on the project in subsequent stages have all the information they need at their fingertips.
SMEs looking for such solutions to enhance productivity and transform their businesses can visit the Tech Depot (www.smeportal.sg/techdepot). It is a multi-agency initiative by A*Star, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Spring Singapore.
Enhanzcom chief executive Edwin Seah notes that only about 10 to 15 per cent of SMEs here have adopted workflow-based solutions to help automate their operations.
Tacam Steel, which has 40 employees here and an annual revenue of about $33 million, has saved two to three hours daily so it can tackle immediate challenges to better serve clients.
Mr Wong says: "We tried other packages before, but the great thing when we adopted Fitprise was that Enhanzcom was already familiar with the procedures for grants and such."
Using a new digital workflow system also means getting everyone involved.
Mr Seah notes: "Ultimately, it's the employees who are using the system. Brian's intention was to get the people on the ground involved in the project cycle of implementation, and they'll be able to accept it better. That's one of the key differences in implementing systems for SMEs.
"When gathering requirements, we insisted on having those on the ground, and calling in people from sales or purchasing, for instance, and learning how they used to do things. It's not something you can force down their throats."
Mr Wong adds that Tacam Steel started engaging staff even earlier, with "many weeks of our own internal discussion".
He says: "Before we talk to them, the firm must be very clear with what it wants or its wish list.
"Take ownership and have a clear understanding that at the end of the process, we must have a certain deliverable.
"The product we have now was designed from what we wanted, not something we just took and forced our staff to learn.
"It's been an ongoing process since March, fine-tuning things along the way as people start to see the benefits."
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