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    Apr 17, 2014

    Faster service, more time to make money

    THE ordeal of thumbing through some 500 customer records to fish out one's details will be a thing of the past for staff at Beauty Collection International.

    Within the next few months, retrieving those details, like previous treatments or purchases, will just be a mouse click away, as the beauty salon starts to digitise its customer records.

    Time savings aside, the eight-strong staff will be able to better focus on making more money for the Hougang Mall salon. The computerised system will allow them to predict when a customer's facial cream will run out, thus giving them the chance to boost sales.

    Mr Phillip Wee, CEO and managing director of the beauty salon, said he learnt about the high-tech move at a digital retailing workshop that was co-organised by the Singapore Productivity Centre (SPC) and the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies.

    Mr Wee's salon is one of 190 home-grown small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have benefited from the workshops, consultancy, and study trips aimed at teaching them how to boost productivity, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & National Development Lee Yi Shyan yesterday.

    The SPC, which hopes to help 2,000 companies in the next three years with a budget of $10 million, focuses on the retail and food services sectors.

    Set up last October, the centre is one of three, under the Government's National Productivity and Continuing Education Council, to help streamline operations in firms here and make them more productive.

    On hand are 18 consultants who can help businesses troubleshoot operational bottlenecks and identify gaps in productivity. The productivity body will train another 26 by the end of September.

    Addressing 240 SMEs at a business forum yesterday, Mr Lee said productivity improvement cannot be delegated and "business leaders must set the tone".

    While more companies are applying for government incentives to drive productivity, Mr Lee said SME bosses must actively find ways to do things differently.

    Citing tie-ups as a way to cope with rising costs, he suggested that hotels can band together to bulk-buy consumables such as toothbrushes and soaps. Restaurants can also invest in a centralised kitchen to cut down on manpower costs, he added.

    Associate Professor Hum Sin Hoon, deputy dean at the National University of Singapore Business School, said that Singapore has moved from increasing awareness among firms to innovate to getting their buy-in.

    "Right now, for many companies the mentality is 'okay, productivity is important' so they buy machines and do projects. But it's piecemeal... and the funding and support cannot continue forever," Prof Hum noted.

    What is critical is a cultural change and ensuring every worker in a company has a stake in contributing to productivity, he added.

    At Beauty Collection, Mr Wee hopes the move towards automation will click with staff.