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INNOVATION

Big on innovation and technology

They are the engines of growth for YCH Group, says executive chairman Robert Yap.

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Mr Yap notes that fostering innovation in any organisation must start with a commitment from the top. Building and nurturing a culture of innovation is important.

EVER since he took over the reins of his family's logistics business from his father over 35 years ago, Robert Yap has leveraged technology to keep YCH Group at the leading edge of the industry. He started using computers in the 1980s at a time when the rest of the industry were still doing things manually.

Those early bets have paid off, and Mr Yap has since banked on innovation and technology to maintain an edge over its rivals. These include automated warehouse, which uses intelligent robots and cranes or using routing analytics technology to capture on-road data in real time to ensure the predictability, reliability and the safe delivery of goods. 

These solutions have allowed YCH to provide its clients with services across the supply chain more efficiently - from supply chain consulting and design to integrated logistics services such as warehousing, freight forwarding and transportation. Unlike most of its competitors, the firm develops its own proprietary software and spends about 5 per cent of its revenue on IT every year.

"The implementation of technology and innovation had also brought about productivity, efficiency and cost saving benefits for our clients," says Mr Yap, executive chairman of YCH.

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For instance, the company's RFID warehouse tracking has increased efficiency by 40 per cent. The system eliminated manual data entry, reduced costs and improved speed and accuracy of stock-takes. Meanwhile, its automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) warehouse requires only an average of six workers, instead of the 40 for a normal warehouse, This has led to an 85 per cent savings in manpower costs. Furthermore, the ASRS warehouse can operate 24/7, whereas normal warehouses operate for 5.5 days a week.

Singapore-based YCH has grown its presence in the region over the years. It now has operations in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, India, South Korea and Australia. It has more than 5,000 employees across the region, including over 150 software engineers.

Mr Yap notes that fostering innovation in any organisation must start with a commitment from the top. "The prerequisite for innovation is business leadership. I always had a strong passion for developing IT-driven business solutions. Rather than using IT to automate paperwork and improve operations, I use IT to enable innovative opportunities for growing the business. Therefore, building and nurturing a culture of innovation is important," he says.

He notes that many of the company's innovations have originated from its employees. To further encourage this behaviour, Mr Yap recognises the new ideas and contributions of staff by giving them innovation and special appreciation awards. Also, the company prefers cross-functional teams over departmental teams working in silos.

"The combined expertise of different departments naturally leads to new ideas," he explains. The company also makes an effort to innovate together with its customers to ensure solutions are tailored to their specific needs.

To keep on top of new technologies and trends emerging in the industry, Mr Yap uses his position in various government and industry bodies to ensure that he is exposed to the latest ideas in business.

Among other roles, he is the president of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), deputy chairman of IE Singapore and part of the 30-member Committee on the Future Economy led by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

"Through the exposure and interaction of the different people from different industries, new ideas and inspiration for innovation come naturally," he says.

Looking ahead, Mr Yap foresees no let-up in YCH's innovation-centric approach to business, which has been key to its success so far.

He says: "Innovation would always remain the key driver of growth and one of the most important core competencies of YCH. Our investment in IT and innovation has brought us to where we are today, and it would only continue to help us scale to greater heights."

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