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Building niche capabilities

The Business Excellence Framework evolved in the 2000s to reflect the growing need for specialised capabilities.

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ST Engineering president and CEO Vincent Chong (third from left)with employees recognised for their collaborative efforts in a cross-sector project at the Group's Business Excellence seminar held earlier this year. The team comprises employees from various sectors within the Group. From left: Muhammad Firdauz, Aerospace; Ong Ewe Lee, Group's corporate office; Lin Jieren, Marine; Tan Shao Jie, Land Systems; and Seah Geok Hong, Electronics.

TO stay relevant with the times, new programmes under the Business Excellence (BE) initiative were launched in the 2000s to build more specialised capabilities to help local organisations stay competitive. These included BE certifications and awards in the niche areas of innovation, people and service, and the SME Management Action for Results (SMART) system, which helps SMEs to develop business management capabilities.

One enterprise that has consistently showcased its abilities in the area of innovation is ST Engineering. The company was one of the the first recipients of the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) with Special Commendation in 2007, after having attained the Singapore Innovation Award (now known as the Innovation Excellence Award) in 2003 and the SQA in 2002.

"The constant striving for exacting standards is second nature to all at ST Engineering, may they be involved in production work or administrative matters. Such a culture traces back to the company's roots in defence solutions, where product standards and safety could mean the difference between life and death," said ST Engineering president and CEO Vincent Chong. "Business excellence, for us, was hence borne out of our sense of responsibility and quality assurance towards our customers as much as our desire to compete globally and achieve results."

To ensure that it stays ahead of the curve, ST Engineering invests heavily in R&D (research and development) to not only develop robust solutions for its customers, but also to differentiate itself from the competition. Reflecting its success in pursuing excellence, the company has maintained its status as the world's biggest airframe MRO provider for more than 16 years running since 2002, and is also currently the world's biggest enterprise VSAT systems supplier.

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In 2007, ST Engineering set up a Business Excellence Council - which evolved into the Business Excellence & Sustainability (BE&S) Council in 2019 - to share best practices, and ensure greater coordination and consistency across the group. Said Mr Chong: "A key objective of the BE&S Council is to ensure that the principles of high performing organisations and sustainability are incorporated into business decision-making to achieve positive and sustainable outcomes for both internal and external stakeholders."

DIFFERENTIATING THROUGH SUPERIOR SERVICE

Service excellence is another area that companies around the world were developing to stand out from the competition. One Singapore-based company that has exemplified this is hotel Conrad Centennial Singapore, which won the Service Excellence Award and SQA in 2007, following its People Excellence honour in 2004.

"Striving for excellence has been the DNA of the company. Our company's vision is to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality by delivering exceptional experiences - every hotel, every guest, every time," said Heinrich Grafe, general manager at Conrad Centennial Singapore.

"As such, we are constantly challenging ourselves to improve and find innovative ways to move ahead. For us no detail is too small and no task is too big. Business Excellence is a government initiative and we felt it was a great platform that we can leverage on to help ourselves to improve better."

Conrad's focus on service excellence has helped it build meaningful relationships with its guests, which translates into stronger business ties with them. "It is this that allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors," added Mr Grafe.