From a single stall to exporting overseas, Hong Hua Holdings couldn’t have done it without a little help

Lim Teik Soon

Lim Teik Soon started a food stall named Jia Jia Le (translated as ‘Happy Families’ in English) in 1997. In just over two decades, his F&B empire encompasses Jia Jia Le, Dong Sheng and Jeffamily eating house, supported by Chun Hong Food Industries (a central kitchen providing deep fried and meat products) and Nai Fong (a manufacturer of processed food products). In 2016, these various businesses were restructured under parent company Hong Hua Holdings.

Lee (in grey) during a Chinese New Year celebration in January 2020

CHFI, started in 2001, helps lower costs and raise productivity, allowing Lim to have better control of the supply chain and plan for future business expansion. At its current location, CHFI’s fully automated kitchen can be run by less than 30 employees (pictured above).

Making improvements with the right partner

CHFI has invested in four productivity initiatives supported by e2i’s Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP), a fund that offers subsidies while ensuring workers get a corresponding pay increase from higher productivity.

With 350 food stalls to supply for, demand for CHFI’s products rose from 50 kilograms to 2 tons a day. With e2i’s support, CHFI invested in a fully automated double frying line, with a first-of-its-kind water separation technology, and a fully automatic coating line.

With manual work replaced by automation, CHFI’s productivity increased five-fold, allowing the workers to use the time saved to do quality checks.

Lee Chong Hong

A total of 30 low wage workers, such as Lee Chong Hong, received a 9.5 percent increment and 18 mature workers received a $200 one-time incentive.

Gan Yee Chin, Chief Financial Officer of Hong Hua Holdings, shared that the company currently has potential customers in Malaysia and Indonesia who plan to retail CHFI’s fried products. It’s a timely investment as consumers are buying packaged food as they stay home during this pandemic.With this business opportunity, CHFI is hiring four new staff under the Place-and-Train scheme with e2i a factory manager, a marketing manager for export sales, and two production staff.

Other improvements include putting in place a production tracking and delivery management system, which has led to a seven percent wage increment.

Gan explains, “This system reduced the back-end work for tracking the delivery and helped drivers to avoid traffic jams by suggesting optimised routes. It also remotely sends the delivery documents from the driver to the back-end office so our admin staff can process the documents earlier, instead of waiting for drivers to return to the office.”

Caring for the workers

Gan explains how CHFI’s productivity drive over the past few years has paid off, “Our sales in 2019 has doubled to nearly $10 million, compared to around $5 million sales in 2016. Due to these productivity initiatives, our percentage of sales per headcount has increased, allowing us to pay our workers more”.

“As part of our company philosophy, we want to diversify our manpower, including hiring mature workers and people with disabilities. We worked with MINDS a few years ago to do a feasibility study and discovered that our packaging department is suitable for their students to work in,” Gan elaborates.

Student from MINDS

Hong Hua Holdings has hired one student from MINDS (pictured above, wearing blue in foreground) to work alongside the packaging team in subsidiary Nai Fong to produce processed food (pictured below).

Processed food production

Overcoming Covid-19

With support from the government and e2i, Hong Hua Holdings managed to remain stable as the Covid-19 pandemic batters the global economy.

Although one-third of their food stalls closed during the Circuit Breaker, Gan says the company is able to pay their staff the same salaries thanks to the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) the government has put in place.

Besides opportunities in the export market, Lim also foresees an increase in demand for CHFI’s deep-fried products and sauces in the next three to five years, as hiring becomes more challenging due to an ageing population and tighter restrictions on foreign manpower.Still, he remains adamant that Hong Hua Holdings will continue to take the necessary improvements to keep to its mission statement of providing “excellent products and services at affordable value to each and every customer”. 

For more information on Hong Hua Holdings and the food products manufactured and exported by this company, please visit honghuaholdings.com.sg.

Words by Julia Chan

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