Revitalising a traditional trade with Lim Kee Food Manufacturing

Vision of creating a Smart City

Founded in 1980, Lim Kee Food Manufacturing is one of the largest distributors of fresh pau in Singapore. Having started out as a humble industrial factory at Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 1, the company has since grown and expanded aggressively to occupy its own office and production facility in Woodlands. To meet the demands of the morning breakfast crowd, Lim Kee’s production team works from 11pm till daybreak to churn out fresh paus, ready for delivery to numerous coffee shops and canteens across Singapore. Over the years, the company has also successfully introduced new product ranges and flavours for their paus. This includes the production and distribution of ready-to-eat paus and assorted rice products so as to cater to changing consumer demands and consumption habits.

Pioneer in automation

As the business expanded, Lim Kee was confronted with issues such as increasing labour and production costs, as well as the need to improve business scalability and production output. This prompted Lim Kee to find a more sustainable way to manage its business and hence, its foray into mechanisation and automation. Quick to realise the efficiency brought about by using machinery, the company was unafraid to make investments in this area and was an early adopter of technology.

“Through the adoption of machinery and digital solutions, we managed to reduce the time required for carrying out repetitive tasks. This has resulted in recorded productivity gains, along with an improvement in losses caused by delays. Not only that, the time freed up has also enabled our employees to engage in higher value-added tasks, thus improving job satisfaction and morale.”

“Back then, to trace how much our customers ordered, the frequency with which they ordered, their ordering patterns, etc., our staff had to plough through thick stacks of hardcopy invoices. With the updates made to our Customer Relationship Management System, they are now able to find out our customers’ ordering profile with just a click of a button. Integrating it with our Distribution Management System, our field merchandisers are also able to easily check on outlets’ performance through their smartphones,” shared Mr Ang He Siong.

Keeping ahead through innovation

Acknowledging that one of its biggest challenges is on staying relevant in a fast-changing marketplace, Lim Kee constantly seeks out ways to transform work processes and to improve on its product offerings. In 2017, the company decided to start on a new initiative to create a healthier and more nutritious version of its existing paus without compromising on the taste. The initiative allowed for greater value-add to its products, enabling it to reach out to health-conscious consumers.

“As a micro-SME, we do not possess the necessary resources that will allow us to build our own independent R&D team. With a strong belief in open innovation, we mainly rely on in-house expertise and third-party collaborators. Through various collaborations, we were able to develop a new range of low-GI, plant-based products, suitable for all cuisines and dietary requirements,” expressed Mr Ang.

Despite the success of its low-GI paus amongst consumers, Mr Ang was careful to mention that food innovation is often a journey rather than a destination. While the ability to launch and commercialise new food innovations is a good starting point, the better litmus test is in assessing the sustainability of these product launches. By constantly developing and redeveloping across varied elements such as business strategy, human resource, production, etc., Lim Kee aims to redesign work processes and improve productivity so as to ensure that output and throughput are maximised. On the product front, the company is also innovating to explore new products that are more scalable and exportable, thus tying in with its plans to internationalise.

Family-like culture

When asked about the reason behind Lim Kee’s success, Mr Ang credits his staff as one of the most important factors. Likening Lim Kee as one big family, the company strives to be people-centric by implementing good human resource (HR) practices to improve welfare and deepen engagement with the staff. Doing so has enabled Lim Kee to keep employees motivated and engaged, which also goes towards the attraction and retention of talent.

“All our employees are given equal opportunities to learn and display their skills within their assigned job scope. In aiming to create a high-performance work environment, we encourage employees to learn from one another so as to facilitate individual and team efficiency. Through job rotations, potential and leading employees are trained to function across the various departments at Lim Kee, thus aiding them in their career progression.”

“At Lim Kee, we believe that continuous communication is essential to building a strong rapport with our employees. During our monthly inter-department meetings, heads of department and employees are welcome to bring up issues and opportunities for discussion. To motivate our employees, monthly performance incentives are given, along with the reward of Long Service Awards and commendation of outstanding performance during our annual Dinner and Dance,” said Mr Ang.

With the changing dynamics of the current workforce, Lim Kee also makes it a point to create an inclusive culture for its older workers. In fostering a positive multi-generational work environment, the company has implemented a buddy system to pair up younger and older workers. This allows for increased interaction between both generations, encouraging the exchange of work experience and knowledge.

“Going against ageism, we believe that older workers should be given a fair chance to work. To cater to constrains faced by older workers in terms of time and physicality, the company offers part-time employment so that they are afforded with some flexibility. We have also redesigned our jobs and work tasks to meet the physical and safety standards of older workers,” added Mr Ang.

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