TranZplus Engineering is a homegrown SME that specialises in the production and assembly of precision machinery and components. Located at Tuas Industrial Estate, the modern exterior of the TranZplus factory stands in stark contrast to its surrounding traditional manufacturing plants. This distinction is the very intention of TranZplus CEO Mr Nelson Lim. By weaving art into the industrial setting, Mr Lim hopes that the atypical visuals break the stereotypical image of mechanical engineering plants while giving employees a cosier working environment.
"Since the common impression of the manufacturing industry is that it's drab and messy, I want our company to appear trendier so that we can attract younger talent. I even designed an in-house café that plays light music to give our staff a pleasant rest area. I believe that if the work environment is clean and organised, employees' efficiency will also improve," says Mr Lim.
Apart from creating the ideal working environment, Mr Lim is bold when it comes to giving opportunities to his staff. Take, for instance, Mr Joe Chua, 49, who worked as a private-hire driver for six years before he joined TranZplus as a salesperson in 2018. He was selected by Mr Lim to attend robotic arm operation and maintenance training programmes in Taiwan when TranZplus was awarded the distributorship of robotic arms in Taiwan.
New career, new chapter: From private-hire driver to trainer in robotic arm operations
Mr Chua, who is now a Marketing Manager with the company, is in charge of all of TranZplus's robotic arm projects. He recalls his past experiences and is still amazed at how far he has come. Once lost and unsure of his future, Mr Chua's career path took a turn for the better under Mr Lim's tutelage.
"When Mr Lim first invited me to join the company, I was reluctant as I had already gotten used to being a private hire driver. However, I decided to give it a go and worked from the ground up as a regular salesperson. Later on, I was lucky to be selected by Mr Lim to attend robotic arm training programmes in Taiwan. Through the training, I learnt the about the operating principles and maintenance of robotic arms, as well as how to instruct and guide other trainees to operate the machine. Now, apart from being a marketing manager, I am also a qualified robotic arm trainer," says Mr Chua.
"People may think that it is almost impossible for me to learn robotic arm operations at my age, but I beg to differ. Never let technology stop you from moving forward. Don't be afraid of technology, because that fear will stop you from trying new things," he added.
Mr Chua reveals that his current job gives him a much greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, compared to his days of being a private hire driver. Through continuous self-improvement, he has discovered a world of possibilities in a new chapter of his life.
"Why does it matter that I only picked up robotics at an older age? Everyone should try to improve themselves and discover their potential," he says.
Robotic arms are already widely used in many advanced countries, and they are not made to replace human beings. Instead, robotic arms help people improve work efficiency by completing repetitive tasks and assembly line processes that require precision. To Mr Chua, it does not matter if robots get "smarter". Ultimately, machines still need the human operator to give commands before they can execute designated tasks. In essence, the "human touch" remains irreplaceable even with technological advancements.
Industry 4.0: Greater precision in big data management
With the move towards Industry 4.0, the manufacturing sector is seeing tremendous improvement in labour productivity and faster product innovation. There is also a reduction in energy consumption, an increase in resource allocation and operation efficiency, as well as enhanced business competitiveness.
Mr Lim was initially sceptical before he had a deeper understanding of the benefits that Industry 4.0 could bring. "When Industry 4.0 first started, I felt that it was messy and confusing. It came across as something that was devised for business novelty," he says.
Subsequently, Mr Lim decided to attend related courses. He came to understand that Industry 4.0 enables efficient information exchange between machines and system operations through the use of big data to analyse product and operation data, facilitate smart production, and establish Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). He also adds that after the company adopted digital solutions, productivity rose by about 50% to 70% across different product types, and this is the most significant benefit that the company has reaped from Industry 4.0.
Putting talent to good use: No efforts spared in employee training
Ms Khor Siew Theng, 30, has been with TranZplus for nine years. Currently the General Manager of HR and Finance, Ms Khor has witnessed the company's digital transformation. "We used to fill up leave applications on paper before getting our superiors' sign-off and approval to take leave. The multiple levels of manual verification were extremely time-consuming. As of last year, we started using software systems for tasks such as leave applications and processing of payslip and order receipts. The digital records are easily traceable, and the transparent online operations also simplify the formerly-cumbersome processes," she explains.
"When I first joined the precision manufacturing industry, I was confused and did not know anything, but this did not stop me from learning. I started as a salesperson and worked my way up to management level, where I joined the McKinsey training programme. The programme gave me a better grasp of digitalisation, as well as the importance of efficiency and time-costs to the business's production," says Ms Khor.
To Ms Khor, Mr Lim is more than her benefactor at work. He had provided her with the encouragement and opportunity to pursue and complete her university education.
Mr Lim has a knack for discovering his employees' potential and encourages them to go for training proactively. 18% of his employees have taken part in training courses related to Industry 4.0, while 30% of his staff participate in internal training programmes.
"I had read books on business philosophy by Konosuke Matsushita, and I agree with his thoughts about grooming talent. If training and education help to broaden my employees' minds, and they, in return, can apply their new perspectives at work, I'm more than happy to send them for further education. I am very proud of Siew Theng (Ms Khor), who joined us as an inexperienced young girl and is now able to take charge of things independently. After all, she is the first university graduate whom TranZplus has groomed," he says with a smile.
A recent addition to TranZplus is 53-year-old Ms Serene Tan. The Senior Manager of HR and Finance was sent by the company to attend Workforce Singapore's Professional Conversion Programme (PCP). The programme has given her greater confidence to make the switch and take on new challenges.
"Before joining TranZplus, I was an accountant at a shipping and transport company for over 20 years. When I first made the job switch, I was nervous because it was a huge challenge to adapt to a new environment at my age," says Ms Tan. The PCP training has also helped her understand the operations and challenges of the sales department, as well as how to establish good relationships with customers. Acquiring these insights brought her greater inspiration in her work.
Ms Tan feels that people should not be "held hostage" by perceived limitations of age. They should remain inquisitive and continuously pursue learning so that life can be worthwhile.
Building a home at work: A people-first management philosophy
When TranZplus first started, it had only four employees. Today, the company has more than 50 staff, and Mr Lim strives to build a warm and nurturing environment for his "big family".
Making the workplace comfortable, having employees feel joyful when at work, and providing opportunities for staff to upskill and flaunt their skills—these are the core values that Mr Lim advocates for his business.
"When a company gives its employees a sense of belonging, they will have a strong bond with the company. I think that a good boss should put their employees first. If the boss knows how to utilise talent and send workers for training to upgrade their skills, these employees will return to their jobs with new mindsets and ideas, which would bring greater benefits to the company."
This article first appeared in zaobao.sg,【智造新商机系列】艺术结合工业 机械零件制造商变“潮”吸人才 on 21 October 2020. Translated from the original article, 【智造新商机系列】艺术结合工业 机械零件制造商变“潮”吸人才, zaobao.sg, 21 October 2020 by JTC, any errors please check back with JTC.