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Business Advice

Higher profit, fewer errors with folding machine

Thanks to new machine, profit margins on folding improved by eight times
The Straits Times - January 4, 2012
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Higher profit, fewer errors with folding machine DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam visiting Asia-wide Print Holdings. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

IN RAPID-FIRE staccato bursts, Asia-wide Print Holdings' latest machine spits out neatly folded brochures at lightning speed.

'This is the Ferrari of folding machines. It's faster than some machine guns,' said chief business officer Terrence Hong with pride.

Able to fold up to 45,000 pieces of paper an hour, the folding machine has enabled the printing company to raise its productivity and pay its workers more.

Thanks to a subsidy of 30 to 40 per cent from the Government's Inclusive Growth Programme, the company was able to buy the $90,000 machine almost immediately instead of waiting for a few years, said Mr Hong.

Before the new machine came along, five foreign workers used to fold brochures at a rate of 1,800 pieces an hour each. Now, just one person is needed to operate the machine.

Folding errors were also reduced.

Profit margins on folding improved by eight times.

The purchase of the folding machine, and another that automates the casting process for printing, has enabled the company to pay its 18 low-wage workers more. Those earning $1,200 to $1,500 a month now get 5 to 15 per cent more.

The company has 40 employees, 10 of whom are foreign workers.

'Even after I shared the gains, I still had enough money left over. This is because I generated more business and can respond to urgent orders faster,' said Mr Hong.

Production planner Kelvin Loh, 43, was one of those who enjoyed a pay rise. He helped the company improve work processes after taking a course subsidised by the Workforce Development Agency. 'We need to keep learning so we won't fall behind,' he said.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam visited the company and praised its investment in equipment, software and workers.

'The management was willing to upgrade and think not in terms of what they'll do just to survive but in terms of entering new market niches and competing with new, more advanced players,' he said.

Since taking over the reins from his father in 2007, Mr Hong has upgraded the company's operations and his efforts have reaped handsome dividends.

The company's annual revenue has jumped from $3 million in 2008 to $5 million last year. Today, the company provides printing services to more than 300 multinational companies.

The five foreign workers who previously folded the brochures are now in the packaging department.



Tech gamble pays off for print firm