With its cloud-based process control, Aik Moh is able to tailor its services to the clients’ needs be it as a passive distributor or to provide one-stop full scale chemical service from purchasing to producing the end products and delivering the finished goods to the end users directly.
The premises of Aik Moh Paints & Chemicals is a showcase of efficiency, with staff and machines working seamlessly together, this is a far cry from when Aik Moh was just a neighbourhood shop selling household paints way back in 1980. The business has evolved significantly from its beginnings and is currently one of the leading chemical distributors and service providers in South East Asia, with 3 factories in Singapore and 2 more in the region.
Growing from Humble Beginnings to Digital Pioneer
Set up in 1980, the 2 founders of Aik Moh Paints did brisk business in their Jalan Besar shop selling paints to consumers for their new HDBs and houses. The business was reliant on consumer demand, and when demand for paint fell significantly in the 1990s, Aik Moh who was a simple paint reseller felt the need to diversify the business for survival. This set the company on the path to its present day successes. It was at this stage that the company began to venture into petrochemical distribution, manufacturing of chemicals and providing toll blending services.
As Aik Moh started manufacturing their own products, there was a steep learning curve for the company and its workers to manage to complex chemical formulations. The challenges of quality control, efficiency and human error beset the fledgling company, undaunted, the owners set out to address these issues for the long-term. The team identified process control as a critical success factor, and took the bold step to develop a proprietary cloud-based software rather than buying an off-the-shelf solution. This decision made sense in Aik Moh’s operations as the processes the company deals with require a high level of customization that was unavailable in software back in 2005.
The OASIS platform was thus created, the company approached the development in stages to manage financial commitment and developed the platform to tackle one critical process at a time. This also allowed a continual learning process for employees to gradually adopt the new operating platform in all aspects of its business. The Oasis platform now tracks customer details, including recipes, process flows and production schedules. Customers are also able to log in to view their order status.
The chemical industry in Singapore has weathered its share of storms, since the year 2000, many manufacturing companies have shifted out of Singapore in search of lower manufacturing costs. This has resulted in the decline in the demand of chemicals, with fierce price competition among existing chemical distributors. In response, Aik Moh expanded its focus on chemical capabilities, infrastructure to offer more services since 2005, forming Toll Blending Business Group, the focus also shifted to providing value-added services such as customised toll blending, warehousing and repacking on top of the distribution business. With its cloud-based process control, Aik Moh is able to tailor its services to the clients’ needs be it as a passive distributor or to provide one-stop full scale chemical service from purchasing to producing the end products and delivering the finished goods to the end users directly.
SUSTAINABILITY AS A PILLAR FOR GROWTH
Aik Moh was introduced to sustainability practices from its early years when its key clients were chemical multinational corporations like Shell and Exxon, since 1998, Aik Moh has adopted corporate sustainability as part of business strategy. Aik Moh operates own waste treatment plants on site and treats their waste water in line with NEA regulations. The company has a number of significant waste reduction initiatives but going beyond this, Aik Moh has also developed their own product lines of green chemicals and a line of biodegradable agriculture crop protection chemicals under their house brand Sorbel.
It was a strategic choice for Aik Moh to expand its portfolio of products to include green chemicals. This green chemical product line is biodegradable and non-toxic, as such no special disposal method is required and there is no harm to the environment. By reusing chemical waste and proactively reducing wastage in all their factories, Aik Moh achieves significant cost savings and builds a company culture that instills great pride in their staff.
Aik Moh’s commitment to sustainability and process improvement has resulted in significant growth for the company over the years. This success has not gone unnoticed, Aik Moh was awarded the prestigious Enterprise 50 Awards for 4 consecutive years from 2008 to 2011. Aik Moh also bagged the Singapore Sustainability Award by the Singapore Business Federation in 2012. In 2019, the company was the overall Winner of the Year for the inaugural UOB Digital Leap Awards and it also topped the Large SME category.
Challenges and Words of Wisdom for Singapore Companies
Mr Roy Tan is the current General Manager of Aik Moh, the company has indeed evolved significantly since his father started selling paints in Jalan Besar. Reflecting on the company’s journey, Mr Tan notes, “There will be multi-challenges to set up a chemical factory in Singapore, from high-cost of labour and retention, stringent government regulations on chemical handling which results in higher costs to name a few. But there are also good reasons why it makes sense to manufacture products (chemicals) in Singapore too. If one can overcome these challenges, Singapore remains an attractive base to do some of these high-value products especially with the ongoing trade war between China-US. From the beginning Aik Moh was committed to the success of our business, we invested for the future and this has been very rewarding for the company thus far.”