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Boosting standards with technology

TO deal with persistent manpower challenges, food-catering company Neo Group has adopted technology to automate its processes and ramp up its productivity, while ensuring the consistent quality of its food.

Reflecting this commitment to technology-based solutions, the company has even developed its own in-house IT systems to capture, analyse and disseminate information.

One of its solutions is a Buffet Catering Management System that integrates information across the organisation, from sales and procurement to kitchen and logistics. This allows staff to deliver high-quality products and services consistently, as well as to resolve any service failures quickly. The system helped Neo Group hold the Singapore record for most number of buffet caterings held in a single day for the past five years.

The company also developed a mobile application called DriverPAL that monitors drivers' speed and provide a navigation system to pinpoint delivery locations and highlight traffic conditions, ensuring that the company's delivery drivers perform their duties safely and efficiently.

"We harnessed technological advancements to develop innovative solutions to meet evolving consumer and business needs. We introduced several automation initiatives over the last five years to mitigate manpower challenges faced in the food services industry and improve productivity while ensuring consistent food quality," said Neo Kah Kiat, Neo Group's chairman and CEO.

These initiatives have helped the company handle an ever-growing number of orders. In 2016, it delivered a total of 100,000 orders, an increase of 42.8 per cent over 2014. It has also broken its own record consecutively since 2013 for the highest number of orders received on the first day of Chinese New Year.

The company also works with its customers to co-create solutions that enhance their experience. To do this, it has put in place a "productivity, innovation and customer experience framework" to manage and implement ideas from all stakeholders. As a result, the number of ideas implemented has more than doubled from 85 in 2014 to 198 in 2016.

Neo Group operates four brands under its food-catering business. These include Neo Garden, which offers premium Asian buffets for household parties and events; Deli Hub, a caterer and one-stop event solutions provider for corporate, institutional and public sector clients; Orange Clove, catering to mid- to high-end international fusion delicacies for corporate clients; and Best Catering, offering daily household tingkat meal services.

INVESTING IN TALENT

Beyond automation to improve efficiency, Neo Group has also introduced measures to ensure it delivers a high level of service to its customers. For instance, customer feedback across the group's brands is regularly reviewed for improvements.

"Neo Group develops and continuously enhances its customer touch points and service standards to provide a holistic service experience. Customer feedback across the group's brands are consolidated, reviewed and analysed to enhance the customer experience," added Mr Neo.

He noted that the group's compliment-to-complaint ratio has risen from 4.61 in 2015 to 6.49 in 2016 for household customers, and 6.63 to 9.29 for corporate customers over the same period.

An organisation-wide campaign called "Zero Error Transformation" was also introduced to promote learning and inculcate the importance of delivering excellent service. The initiative encourages staff to do their best and to take ownership of their duties.

The company also has a job-rotation programme in place between its subsidiaries to give its employees an opportunity to broaden their working experience. Meanwhile, the number of training hours provided to the staff has increased from almost 2,500 in 2014 to over 8,200 hours in 2016. "We believe that a motivated and happy workforce will be highly engaged and productive," added Mr Neo.

A JOURNEY TO EXCELLENCE

The Business Excellence framework has served as a health check for the company and has been a useful reference point to offer an integrated approach to the business, according to Mr Neo. The company was one of the winners of this year's Singapore Quality Award.

"The BE journey has brought the different departments together, and through the exercise, they gain a deeper appreciation of how each department plays an important role in contributing to the company's growth and success," he said. "However, it was not an easy task and required the whole company to be aligned with the company's culture and direction. We realised that although there was a strong company culture in place, more could be done to enhance the communications and promote better understanding between different departments."

Looking ahead, Mr Neo believes that the BE framework will act as a roadmap that aligns the whole company to a common goal and direction. "It is a never-ending journey for business excellence. After the BE journey, we put in place monthly follow-up meetings to continually improve on our current processes and to work towards Zero Error transformation with the aid of technology. We will continue to innovate and invest in new technology, deliver the best to our customers, inspire and nurture our people and give back to our community."