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Celebrating firms that innovate, grow and succeed
IT has been a period of monumental changes for Singapore's businesses in the past few years, thanks in part to a rapidly transforming global landscape.
Technologies have now advanced far beyond what we have imagined – driverless cars, smart factories, blockchain, robots and more are transforming the future of work and jobs.
And it's not just automation and artificial intelligence that local enterprises have to think about. Political shifts around the world are also constantly taking place, with the resulting effects of uncertainty on trade.
For small local enterprises just starting out, the world can be a daunting place. But there are forward-looking companies out there which see and – more importantly – seize opportunities even in the midst of disruptions and volatility. The E50 Awards specifically recognises and rewards the top 50 local enterprises that prove they have what it takes to succeed in today's fast-changing world, adding value not just to Singapore's economy, but also beyond.
This year's theme, "Innovate, Grow & Succeed: Staying competitive in today's economy", is a timely reminder of some of the necessary ingredients for enterprises to break through in today's economy, namely innovation and scale.
Innovation comes in many forms, such as product innovation and business model innovation. But more than the investment of capabilities, it is this spirit of enterprise – of taking calculated risks and not being content with the status quo – that is celebrated at E50.
The winner this year is Onn Wah Precision Engineering, a family business taking a leap into Industry 4.0, or what has been called a "smart factory" where automation, computers and machines come together to revolutionise manufacturing.
In fact, it has already invested in 3D printing in the last few years to explore the possibilities of the technology and how it can affect its work.
But perhaps most significantly, it is inculcating in its staff the mindset of innovation. The company's strong family culture has resulted in employees being unafraid to innovate, which is driving benefits for the firm.
"They could be technicians on the shop floor, but they dare to take risks. We have this environment where they dare to try things out," says managing director Lam Keng Yew.
With many sources of grants and funding out there, it's up to local enterprises to capitalise on them to tap new technologies and adopt best practices. The E50 recipients have certainly shown that small enterprises need not be restricted by limited resources.
While being small has its advantages, such as agility and nimbleness to navigate the challenges of today's economy, companies also need scale to expand operations beyond borders for sustained growth.
The key for many enterprises is collaboration, be it with similarly small businesses, partnering larger government-linked corporations or multinationals, or with research companies or institutes of higher education.
One of 2017's five-year Award winners is Feinmetall Singapore, a German-Singapore joint venture small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) that specialises in the design and manufacturing of wafer probe cards for semiconductor wafer tests.
General manager Sam Chee Wah says that ever since its early days, it has partnered with Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) to help it overcome the challenges.
For example, it worked closely with A*Star's research engineers to enhance its production processes, and even had A*Star's research scientists seconded to its factory.
Most recently, Feinmetall Singapore adopted several technologies under the A*Star Model Factory initiative in its new S$6 million, 6,700 sq ft digital manufacturing facility in its efforts to stay relevant and remain competitive.
The possibilities for collaboration are endless. The winners of the E50 Awards have indeed set the mark high in their ability to innovate, scale and venture abroad.
Aside from Feinmetall Singapore, the other two recipients of the coveted 5-Year Award are tyre maker and distributor Omni United and commodities trader Sudima International.
This year, up to 30 new entrants made it to the illustrious list of Top 50 winners, a big jump from 23 last year – an encouraging sign that more firms are gaining confidence in their abilities to stand out from the rest.
2017 also marks the second year of the E50 Special Recognition Award – Internationalisation, an accolade launched last year to reward excellence in a company's overseas and expansion strategy. New entrant Vector InfoTech bagged the prize, with a presence across countries in Asia.
In the next few pages, winners of the E50 Awards share their journey of entrepreneurship and their plans for the future.
The E50 Awards is jointly organised by The Business Times and KPMG in Singapore. OCBC returns as sponsor for the 12th year, and supporters for the awards include International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Singapore Business Federation, Spring Singapore and the Singapore Exchange.
Supplement editor: Vivien Shiao Sub-editor: Lilian Lee Cover design: Simon Ang Advertising sales: Josephine Lee 9622 0268; Janet Wee 96190208