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On top of its game

Aik Soon Hardware constantly finds ways to maintain its competitive edge

Mr Quek has led the company in a customer-centric direction to add value for them.

By Hazel Tan

TO DIFFERENTIATE itself from its competitors, Aik Soon Hardware innovates to deliver superior sales and customer service, offers value-added services and invests in its employees.

Established in 1992, Aik Soon Hardware is a distributor, stockist, importer and exporter of a diverse range of marine and industrial valves for the marine, offshore and oil and gas industries. 

Aik Soon Hardware’s chairman Mr Quek Bok Teck believes in innovating its operational processes to better serve its customers. Photo: Zaobao

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Its products include gate, globe, check, ball and safety valves; butterfly valves and strainers; and butterfly valves that comply with international standards. Its main brands include Powell Valves from the United States, Showa Valves from Japan, Pegler from the United Kingdom, CIM and IVR from Italy, and DK from South Korea.

A gate valve from Powell Valves, one of Aik Soon Hardware’s main brands. Photo: Aik Soon Hardware

In 2008, Aik Soon automated some of its processes. For instance, it integrated its stock inventory, and pricing and monitoring system through a shared platform. This increased productivity and enabled employees to respond to customers’ requests for quotations quickly.

Its director, Mr Lee Chin Ann, says: “In recent years, we have been investing in technology. For example, by switching to a global positioning system (GPS) platform in our delivery vans, we are better able to meet our clients’ expectations and ensure timely delivery.”

Aik Soon’s diverse clientele ranges from those in oil, gas and petrochemical industries, to shipbuilding, repair and conversion yards, and ship management, marine and offshore supply, engineering, procurement and construction, as well as bunkering companies.

Customer-focused approach 
Aik Soon’s complementary services offer its customers greater value. Such services include valve modification services, as well as valve automation with electric and pneumatic actuators that can be fitted onto its valves through in-house assembly and testing. 

“These services not only generate additional revenue for us but also provide a wider selection and resource savings for our clients — a win-win for both parties,” says Mr Lee.

Offering complementary visits to its clients’ vessels to check if valves need replacement during vessels’ dry dockings also saves its clients time and labour and increases profitability for Aik Soon, he adds.

The customer-centric company believes in engaging with customers and soliciting feedback regularly. 

“Our customers come first. We strive to serve them better through constant customer engagement and feedback, which provides us with ideas on how to value-add by identifying their needs,” says Mr Lee.

In addition to just distribution of its products, Aik Soon Hardware also offers complementary services such as valve modification and more. Photo: Zaobao

Lean and nimble 
With only nine employees, Aik Soon’s lean and flat organisational structure allows it to be flexible and adapt quickly to changes in the business environment.

Its employees are well-rounded and capable of taking on multiple roles. For example, its warehouse supervisor can fill in for its machinist by drilling the flanges for valves should the latter be unavailable. The company’s sales staff also help with the delivery as and when needed.

Says Mr Lee: “Doing so lowers our operating costs and ensures easier management and control. With ease of communication and no red tape, our staff are able to develop skills beyond their job scope to gain meaningful knowledge and insights to manage their primary roles and other duties. 

“Our constant focus on keeping up with changes in the competition, customer needs and company profits further enhances our results.”

Mr Lee says charismatic leadership with human capital investment are key to succeed in today’s business landscape. He attributes the company’s success to hard work, commitment, resourcefulness, sound financial principles and management, and the ability to learn from its competitors.