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THREE first-time winners were honoured at this year's Business Excellence Awards, recognised for their superior performance across key aspects of their organisations.
Food companies Neo Group (Catering) and Select Group, as well as utilities services provider SP Services, joined Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and the Ministry of Manpower as recipients of the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) 2017.
Meanwhile, eco-friendly packaging firm Greenpac, also a previous SQA recipient, won the Innovation Excellence Award (IEA). The six winners received their awards at a ceremony and gala dinner held on Oct 26.
The annual event recognises companies that have successfully adopted the Business Excellence (BE) framework, which seeks to help enterprises strengthen fundamentals such as leadership, customer-centricity, people development, process capabilities, and knowledge management. They are conferred by the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) Governing Council and administered by SPRING Singapore.
Including this year' crop, there have been 112 BE Award winners since the initiative was launched in 1994. For the past 23 years, the BE certification programme has helped 1,800 organisations from both the private and public sectors to strengthen their management systems and transform their businesses.
STAYING COMPETITIVE IN A DIGITAL ECONOMY
More companies have sought to be BE-certified in recent years, as they look to build their internal capabilities and expand their markets abroad to compete in a fast-changing global economy.
The last three years alone has seen an annual average of 130 companies attaining BE certification, compared to 80 companies certified annually from 2011 to 2014, an increase of over 60 per cent.
"In the face of a fast-changing global economic landscape, business excellence has become more crucial for organisations now than before. To help them navigate through these changes, the independent validation process that organisations go through using the BE framework provides them with an external perspective - enabling them to assess where they stand in relation to their local and overseas counterparts, and identify the gaps that need to be filled in order to achieve sustainable growth," said Professor Cham Tao Soon, chairman, SQA Governing Council.
He added: "It is important for organisations to stay competitive in today's dynamic business environment characterised by global competition and tight labour markets. By adopting the BE framework, organisations can better deal with challenges and build capabilities to prepare themselves for the future."
Specifically, the BE initiative provides companies with an internal roadmap to help them build solid business fundamentals for success.
Organisations can use the framework as a tool to review internal management systems and identify areas of improvement so that they can strengthen their capabilities to seize growth opportunities and ensure business sustainability. Being BE-certified also allows enterprises to distinguish themselves as credible players when venturing to markets overseas.
"Business Excellence is an essential tool for companies to strengthen their capabilities and internationalise. It is thus an area that the Government has been strongly supportive of," said Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister Of State, Ministry Of Trade And Industry & Ministry Of National Development, at the Business Excellence Awards Ceremony.
Indeed, the ability for enterprises to build capabilities and compete internationally are two key aspects of the Committee on the Future Economy's (CFE) set of recommendations to help chart Singapore's economic future. The CFE report has been accepted in full by the Government.
One organisation that has successfully leveraged the BE framework to strengthen its service capabilities is real estate management company LHN Group, which operates in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
The framework helped LHN recognise the importance of tailoring its real estate offerings to meet different client expectations.
The company used this insight to gather customer feedback and form a service excellence committee.
Although LHN is still in the early stages of implementing the changes, it has already seen an improvement in its level of service delivery. The company's customer response time has been halved from 48 hours to 24 hours, and customer satisfaction, measured through mystery shopping, improved by two percentage points.
"With the adoption of the BE framework, business processes are better defined and structured for us to review our performance. Through the guidance of the BE framework, we can make improvements over time, thus strengthening the company and helping us maintain business excellence," said LHN executive chairman and group managing director Kelvin Lim.
"In summary, the BE framework helps to ensure that our service delivery level is consistent and that all our business processes are standardised."
Besides building strong internal capabilities, the BE programme also supports enterprises in their efforts to venture abroad in search of business opportunities with the Singapore Quality Class certification, which is awarded to organisations that have achieved standards of good performance.
The SQC serves as a Singapore-approved trust mark to distinguish local enterprises from the competition, helping their entry into challenging markets.
"The assurance of quality that BE provides of a business' products and services, as well as soundness of its management practices are important for Singapore companies looking to seize growth opportunities locally and overseas. Organisations should leverage the BE initiative to fine-tune their management systems and develop capabilities to be better positioned to scale, grow and compete," said Poon Hong Yuen, chief executive, SPRING Singapore.
Scanteak is one example of a local company that intends to lean on its SQC certification to support its international expansion plans. The furniture retailer has established itself as one of the biggest furniture chain store retailers in Singapore and Taiwan, with a footprint in other countries such as Brunei, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United States. It is planning to further expand by opening more outlets in markets such as Japan.
After attaining the SQC certification in June this year, Scanteak will be better able to assure its overseas partners of the quality of its products and business operations and carry out its expansion plans.
"The BE framework changed and improved our system, making the structure more organised. With the formalisation of the system, we now have a detailed overview of the processes in the company," said Jamie Lim, Scanteak's regional marketing director.
"We also found the framework effective in analysing our business functions and introduce best practices for areas such as human resource, finance, customer relationship management and our long-term strategies. With the orderly planning through the framework, Scanteak is equipped with the right tools needed for current and future business planning, which is integral in moving forward as a business."
AN EVOLVING FRAMEWORK
The BE framework was streamlined last year to keep pace with evolving management and technological trends.
The changes required organisations to first pursue the Singapore Quality Class (SQC) as a foundation before deepening niche capabilities in innovation, people and service.
"The BE framework was reviewed and enhanced in 2016 to ensure it continues to be relevant for organisations seeking to improve their business fundamentals in the midst of evolving market, customer and technological trends," said Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive (Quality and Excellence), SPRING Singapore.
"For those who have established a strong business foundation, they may also deepen their capabilities in areas of innovation, people or service as key differentiators to boost their competitive standing."
Prior to last year's changes, SPRING had enhanced the BE initiative on several occasions to cater to the changing needs of the local business community.
For instance, in 2015, SPRING rolled out a customised version of the BE framework - known as the Operational Excellence framework - for the precision engineering sector.
Developed through industry feedback and consultation, the Operational Excellence framework seeks to build the capabilities of local SMEs in the precision engineering sector, enabling them to compete more effectively with best-in-class manufacturing suppliers.
In 2006, SPRING also launched a simplified version of the BE framework, called the SME Management Action for Results or SMART Initiative, to help SMEs conduct a quick diagnosis of their operations and identify areas for improvement.
To date, more than 700 SMEs have benefitted from SMART.
2017 Business Excellence Award winners
SINGAPORE QUALITY AWARD
Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA)
Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
Neo Group Limited (Catering)
Select Group Pte Ltd
SP Services Ltd
INNOVATION EXCELLENCE AWARD