Strong bonds with colleagues across the globe

In this second and final feature on workplace integration, brought to you by the Ministry of Communications and Information, Jessica Leow explores the benefits of working with colleagues from different countries.

BD Singapore’s cohesive team includes (from left) Mr Hashim Baba, Mr Tang Gen Ming, Ms Fong Fwi Lee and Ms Tong Mee Mee. The company clinched the BD Manufacturing Excellence Award in 2006, 2011 and last year. BD is a global medical technology company headquartered in the United States. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Strong bonds with colleagues across the globe

With 29 years of experience at Becton Dickinson (BD) Singapore, Mr Hashim Baba's bond with and trust in his colleagues, who come from across the globe, are stronger than ever.

After all, just two weeks after joining the medical technology company in 1989, he was sent overseas to work with colleagues and suppliers in the US and Europe to customise and import machines to Singapore.

During the one-month stint, he also received technical training. When he returned, the technical specialist worked with a team of eight, collaborating with four American colleagues, to plan the location and workflow for the new machines. He also trained and transferred the knowledge to the Singapore team.

This project started Mr Hashim, 54, on a path of success. He moved up the ranks, with a promotion to associate engineer in 1995, then production manager in 2003.

The Singapore facility located at Tuas hires close to 1,200 staff, with about 55 per cent Singaporeans. It is also the regional manufacturing hub for BD.

BD is a global medical technology company with nearly 50,000 associates across 50 countries, headquartered in the United States.

Throughout Mr Hashim's career, working with colleagues from diverse backgrounds has helped him gain new skills and international exposure. In particular, American-Korean plant manager Richard Ji provided guidance and shared books on leadership and management.

"Proper mentoring is important. I've been very lucky in that I got to interact with different international managers, and that has helped me improve my technical and leadership skills," said Mr Hashim.

Mr Ji also encouraged Mr Hashim to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course, which was sponsored by the company.

BD Singapore's commitment to unleash the potential and to support the continuous development of its Singaporean employees like Mr Hashim is one of the things that make the company a standout in the Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme, which is managed by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), and supported by the Ministry of Manpower.

The HCP programme, launched in November 2016, recognises employers who are committed to progressive employment practices. These include nurturing a stronger Singaporean core, maximising complementarity between locals and foreigners, and enhancing skills transfer from foreign to local employees.

BD Singapore runs development programmes for staff from entry to management level; its leadership acceleration programme has seen five Singaporeans take on global and regional roles in the US and in Europe. It also partners local institutions to provide internship and job opportunities for Singaporeans.

Winning formula

Mr Hashim, who is now the director of Plant Manufacturing, applies the same trust and empowerment he was given to his team and colleagues, who hail from countries including the US, Malaysia, India and China.

The strong bond and teamwork have led BD Singapore to multiple successes. Notably, it clinched the BD Manufacturing Excellence Award three times, beating over 40 BD teams globally. The internal award recognises sites that show progress in achieving manufacturing excellence.

On winning the award, Mr Hashim said: "As a small site in Singapore, we could do it. So what more can we achieve?"

BD's second win in 2011 was particularly memorable for him because of his Chinese colleague, Mr Tang Gen Ming, 45.

The toolroom and moulding operations manager located Singapore-based suppliers to produce specific resins crucial to the production of syringes. This enabled BD to move resin production from the US and Europe to Asia-Pacific, which "significantly reduced production inventory cost, and lead time".

Mr Tang said: "Mr Hashim has imparted a lot of technical knowledge, and helped me with presentation skills especially with external parties.

With its strong and cohesive international team, BD Singapore has expanded its manufacturing range to 14 products for global export.

"It's heartening to know that our team is able to produce very high-quality products," said Mr Hashim.

From left: Mr Abdulkadir Husainy, Mr Anton Lomaga, Ms Lim Lin Hui and Ms Tammy Tan are part of KPMG Singapore's multinational staff. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Collaboration yields better results all round

For Ms Lim Lin Hui, collaboration between colleagues of diverse nationalities yields better results for her clients - and her firm.

Ms Lim, 35, a senior manager with KPMG Singapore's audit department, recalled an advisory project for a shared services centre looking to streamline its business processes and improve operational efficiency.

"The engagement team and I were in Manila to work with the client and familiarise ourselves with the centre's operating model. There was much collaboration among international colleagues in other member firms to meet the requirements of a complex global audit and deliver a positive impact on our client's business," said Ms Lim, who joined the firm 13 years ago.

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services. The firm has a presence around the world in countries such as Germany, Japan and the United States.

KPMG Singapore has 2,800 employees, of whom 67 per cent are Singaporeans.

Till today, Ms Lim continues to learn from international colleagues with specialised knowledge.

"At times, it can be extremely challenging to attempt to audit an area of work that is very specialised in nature.

In such instances, I seek first to understand the intricacies of the domain involved, and work in partnership with colleagues in other teams to identify and formulate practical recommendations."

Working with colleagues from diverse nationalities has also enhanced Ms Lim's interpersonal skills and made her more culturally sensitive. This has helped her deal better with international clients.

"Being patient in understanding where my colleagues are coming from in different workplace scenarios has enabled me to work more efficiently and effectively."

One helpful foreign colleague is Ukrainian audit manager Anton Lomaga, 31, who recently assisted in managing a US subsidiary for a client. Ms Lim said: "His multicultural experience and capabilities helped to bridge the gap with the client, and this further enhanced our work relationship."

She added that she has been inspired by Mr Lomaga, who is "more forthcoming with his thoughts", to open up in discussions and brainstorming events.

Mr Lomaga, who joined KPMG Singapore in 2014, said: "No matter how complex the engagement, working closely with the clients and my teams has always been at the core of the successful accomplishment of the project."

Healthcare firm poised to help create higher value jobs

Singapore's role as an international hub is set to develop further, particularly in the pharmaceuticals industry as global companies increase their output and advance automation in their plants.

According to the Economic Development Board, the sector will see a "robust" 2018.

One company well placed to benefit from this projected upswing is healthcare company Mundipharma, which operates in countries across the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and is headquartered in Singapore.

"Singapore is not tied to any one country. It has positioned itself as an innovation hub," said Mundipharma's chief executive officer Raman Singh, 47.

Its facility, on a 7,900 sq m plot of land in Tuas, is scheduled to open in October. Mundipharma is investing US$100 million (S$133.5 million) in this project.

Mr Singh, who was originally from the United States and now based in Singapore, said that in choosing where to locate the plant, it was down to between Hong Kong and Singapore.

"It was a slam dunk because Singapore provided much more - great universities, talent and the push from the Government to embrace technology," he added.

Mr Raman Singh is confident that Singapore's workforce will become increasingly comfortable with AI and Big Data. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TOURISM BOARD

The Singapore facility will be the global research and development hub for Mundipharma's consumer and over-the-counter products. Seventy per cent of the company's regional volume will be made at this plant, which Mr Singh plans to transform into "the most automated plant in the world".

The fully integrated high-speed filling line will be capable of running at 300 bottles per minute, and will contain a smaller filling and packaging line for small-scale manufacture.

The plant also has supporting quality control laboratories and a 1,000 pallet high-bay warehouse. The facility will have advanced control and data processing systems, and its high-speed production lines will incorporate packaging robotics and advanced electronic vision systems, as well as automated goods vehicles.

The company plans to hire 60 employees for the plant, including for research and development, and 15 new staff for other roles.

Mundipharma's Singapore office has 149 employees, with 76 per cent of them Singaporeans.

Multinational corporations like Mundipharma continue to be drawn to Singapore's open economy and pro-business environment, bringing with them new technology and competencies, and contributing to the creation of higher-value jobs for Singaporeans.

Recent figures from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed that Singaporeans and permanent residents made up a slightly bigger proportion of the workforce as of December last year, at 67.2 per cent, up from 66.4 per cent a year earlier.

MOM expects employment to continue to grow this year, as the economy is projected to expand between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent.

Mr Singh is confident that the Singapore workforce will become increasingly comfortable with artificial intelligence, data mining and Big Data.

"Singapore is very future-looking and understands that technology is going to change the way we work in the future," he said.

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