Finding new avenues to explore - for both the company and the family
by Sam Yip
A father and daughter team at Pacific Forest Products talks to us this week about the competitive nature of the timber industry in Singapore and what it is like to work together.
Jason Chang, Managing Director, was one of the 15 recipients of the Top Entrepreneur 2011 award at the recent ASME (Association of Small and Medium Enterprises) Entrepreneur of the Year Ceremony. He was the first to introduce robotics into the timber industry, the first ever in Southeast Asia.
Sharon Chang, Business Development Executive, joined her dad in the timber business and relishes the challenges that she faces, both in Business Development, as well as other aspects of the timber business, from Sales to Research and Development.
What spurred you to venture into the manufacturing industry despite it being described as a sunset one?
It was about taking up opportunities and challenges. It’s a cliché, but that describes my intentions for going into this industry. Pacific Forest Products is my father’s heart and soul. From humble beginnings, he started his entrepreneur’s journey in 1988. After 24 years of managing the business, a wellspring of opportunities still awaits this Small and Medium Enterprise (SME). The recipe for Pacific Forest’s survival is constant reinvention. Initially, we were a small timber trading company, but we have transformed into a multi-faceted organization that also focuses on manufacturing and pre-fabricating products for lifestyle homes and resorts.
This constant change and reinvention is why I don’t think manufacturing is a sunset industry. The process of creation and innovation is the beauty of manufacturing. By working on ways to reinvent ourselves, we stay ahead of competition and it further affirms our position in the timber and manufacturing industry.
Well, my name card reads “Business Development Executive” but I juggle many more portfolios than just business development. Of the many functions I perform, two are Sales and R&D. To be realistic, any company will shut down without revenue, so managing sales is a major part of my work. In addition, I’m involved in our company’s R&D division to ensure we constantly look for new opportunities.
Because we deal with lumber, Pacific Forest recognizes the urgent need to delve into creating greener timber solutions. I’m no science student but I’m very intrigued by the development of our green product, ONEWOOD. This product challenges the traditional market of natural plastic and wood plastic composites as it is produced from natural fibers. To top it off, ONEWOOD has properties comparable or even better than timber in terms of durability and aesthetics.
How is it like to work for your dad?
Most of my friends imagine that I would probably be on the job 24/7. Well, not exactly. I get my personal space and time for my own activities as well. But when you think of it, if you are passionate about what you do, you'd be thinking of the job almost all the time. In fact, working together has strengthened our relationship and we understand each other so much better than before.
It’s said that Pacific Forests utilises robots to replace manual labour for productivity gains. An interesting solution, what was the inspiration behind this?
Precision and speed - these are some of the traits of an ABB robotic arm that inspired my dad to invest and introduce robotics into our production line. The arm is used in a wide range of production lines.
The first ABB robotic arm is utilized for the mass production of window, door and louver components. The second robotic arm specialises in custom-made components, specifically for high end clients.
The robotic arms are complemented by a 3D CAD software, a programme that translates commands from the 3D CAD software to robotic arm language, clamping system and automated tool change system.
As the company takes on larger scaled projects, production capacity will increase and we will need to invest more than just two robotic arms for woodworks. Ultimately, we aim to fully automate our production line.
The manufacturing sector in Singapore is small and competitive. What are the challenges you face every day and how do you overcome them?
Three critical factors guide our business at PFP, providing quality products to our customer, providing excellent customer service and building close rapport with our suppliers. They keep us ahead of the competition.
As the world urbanises and its population grows, the improved standard of living gives consumers higher purchasing power. These factors drive industries to be more competitive than ever. Thus I feel that the three critical factors mentioned above apply to every industry, not just in manufacturing.
Time management! Dad and I are workaholics, and sometimes we work till late. But, he can still find time to Kite Surf and practice Brazilian Jujitsu at the age of 60, whereas I continue to paddle competitively in Dragon Boat and Outrigger Canoe with my club. What is even better is that we still have time for family, friends and loved ones. It’s all about managing your time.
You must love what you do and have passion for it. In fact, this quote goes out to all jobseekers. For one simple reason, once you put in effort to your work wholeheartedly, you yield more satisfaction and you will definitely perform well in every aspect of your career.
Click here to read about Pacific Forest Products.