SLA: Everyday Heroes of the Logistics Industry

What is it like to be in the fast-paced logistics industry? Three SLA scholars share their experiences in the respective organisations in which they work.

By Tan Yan Shuo

For diploma-holders Edric Chen, Paul Wong, and Yee Cheng Foong, becoming a logistics professional has been amongst the best decisions of their lives, as it provides them with a challenging career in one of the fastest-growing and most exciting sectors in Singapore. Little did they expect, however, to one day become the first batch of Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) scholars.

SLA is an industry association that provides many services for logistics companies, one of which is grooming industry talents by facilitating their professional development. Starting this year, it will award up to six scholarships annually, funded by SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore’s Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) initiative, and with recognised companies as co-sponsors.

Edric, Paul, and Cheng Foong were all high-fliers in their respective companies, but none were satisfied with what they had – all dreamt of greater things to come. Upon receiving news about the SLA scholarship’s inception, they jumped at the opportunity, and were nominated by their companies to undergo a battery of interviews and tests. Eventually, the three young men did themselves and their companies proud by becoming the inaugural recipients of the scholarship.

With the scholarship covering tuition and all other fees deemed compulsory by SLA, each is currently waiting to embark on a part-time degree in logistics and supply chain management at local tertiary institutes such as the SIM University and Curtin University of Technology in Singapore. They are grateful for the stepping stone to career advancement, and seek to contribute to the industry by excelling in everything they do.

Edric Chen: Poh Tiong Choon (PTC) Logistics

Twenty-eight-year-old Edric joined PTC in 2004 as a Customer Service Assistant. Displaying excellent work ethic and rapport with customers, he rapidly rose to his present role of Customer Service Executive based in PTC’s Jurong Island facility.

“Our core business is in warehousing, transport and drumming of chemicals for petrochemical companies. My role is to ensure that clients’ requests – whether involving transport, drumming orders or inventory checks – are fulfilled and delivered by other teams in the company,” he explains.

“Every day is a challenge,” says Edric. “The work environment at PTC is fast-paced and dynamic, far from routine. I am trained to handle anything from 300 to 500 orders a month, using PTC’s unique IT infrastructure that efficiently processes, tracks and monitors inventory. People tend to see PTC as a transportation company, but that it is not. My work gets more exciting because I have to deal with petrochemical dangerous goods (DG), and that requires me to learn how to conduct risk assessment of the entire process and develop safe work procedures to meet operational safety requirements to comply with relevant government bodies.”

“Over the years, my responsibilities have increased and challenges I face are inevitable. But overcoming them through effective problem-solving makes my job exciting,” says Edric.

He elaborates, “Many people tend to think that processing orders is a simple and monotonous task. However, not all orders are the same. The application of understanding and applying practical know-how of logistics is important. Moreover, to be competitive and differentiated, my company believes in providing value-added service rather than just handling orders plainly. This is the extra mile we give to our customers.”

Edric candidly adds, “There are a variety of customers which can result in different customised requirements, but not all prefer to be customised and some can be hasty and give difficult requests. The extra mile can be difficult as well. Like any service industry, this is a challenge for us working at the frontline.”

Edric continues, “There will always be problems caused by demanding customers no matter how hard we try to prevent them. What matters most is how we learn to deal with the different customers’ personalities and different situations, how fast we respond and how we improve the processes that we put in place to ensure that we are always improving.”

In such challenging situations, Edric finds comfort in the family-like work environment at PTC. He muses, “Our managers always tell us to treat the company like a home.”

Paul Wong: Storbest-SSHK Cold Logistics

Paul, 25, is a Logistics Executive at Storbest, which specialises in one-stop solutions in cold logistics, involving trucking, storage, distribution and export. Within two short years, he has taken up various different roles and is constantly pushing the envelope.

Operating wholly from its Jurong facility with 2,000 tons of warehousing space, Storbest leverages on its centralised location and state-of-the-art refrigeration technology to provide excellent services.

“I plan and arrange for transfer of cargo from production plant to storage warehouse,” he says. “I receive customer instructions for cargo release and prepare relevant documentation and arrange for delivery or export. In addition, I play a managerial role by ensuring warehouse operational SOPs are in place and planning for daily work distribution.”

During his two years at the company, undergoing job rotations has exposed him to different facets of the business. Such a system allows for continual growth for Storbest staff.

“I have been through distribution, cargo transfer and handling, and storage,” he recounts. “I have visited regional offices to see how we can improve communications and support. I’m gradually able to understand the whole operations network so that in future, hopefully I am able to oversee and improve work flow and problem-solving.”

In addition, Paul finds great satisfaction in the spirit of cooperation and mutual support within the company, which extends from teamwork at the frontline to staff development by the management.

The company also has a customer-oriented approach, of which Paul is especially proud. “We make room for any customer requirements rather than follow stringent work SOPs that customers must accommodate themselves to,” he enthuses. “Although it makes our work more complicated because we have to be more flexible and open to many options rather than straightforward with only a single path to follow, it gives customers greater satisfaction.”

Having been through such a diversity of positions, Paul has certainly been given ample opportunities to select his forte and be groomed for higher appointments.

Yee Cheng Foong: Keppel Logistics

Cheng Foong’s role as an Assistant Manager (Logistics) is free from the monotony of routine. He is responsible for two floors of storage space in the warehouse, and oversees about 50 staff including store assistants, supervisors and officers.

The challenge of his job comes in the form of prioritising the customer orders taken. He explains, “My job is primarily to do with scheduling. Scheduling is not just taking orders and fulfilling them. It requires understanding of requirements, prioritisation and space planning to maximise our warehouse space and manpower.”

Being at the forefront of the logistics industry, Cheng Foong sees it as his duty to nurture the talents of his staff. He makes an effort to seek out those with high potential, and give them opportunities to prove themselves. Given the satisfaction that he gets from watching his staff grow, it is unsurprising that he finds this the most meaningful aspect of his job.

Bringing the best out of his team has allowed Cheng Foong to rise to the numerous challenges that he has faced, such as when there were sudden surges in customer requests. It has also earned him the eye of the organisation’s CEO, who brought him on a business trip to China in October last year.

“We went to Foshan and Guangzhou to look at our operations there, and to explore possibilities for expanding our business,” he says. “It was the first time I was exposed to business development, and I am grateful for the opportunity. It goes to show that Keppel is truly meritocratic, and values performance over paper qualifications.”

Still, the 32-year-old understands the importance of lifelong learning in the rapidly evolving logistics industry, which is why he, together with Paul and Edric, is eager to upgrade himself with a bachelor’s degree that will propel him to greater heights.

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