Photo credit: iStock.com/dragana991
S M C Food 21 Pte Ltd is in the higher value chain of the dairy game in a country known for skyscrapers, limited resources and a small land mass.
According to S M C Food 21 General Manager Mike Lim, canned milk powders like infant formulas contain not only milk but other ingredients and nutrition like lactose and protein. He added that milk in formulas is probably just 20–30 per cent.
That is where S M C Food 21 comes in – to add other ingredients and turn milk into pre-blend products for other dairy product companies or end products such as milk powders.
With the ageing population and Singaporean’s increasing awareness for health, the company is also diversifying and venturing into dairy nutrition. The company is currently building its nutrition production plant adjacent to its current plant at Chin Bee Crescent.
Future Plans: Dairy Hub
Besides the nutrition production plant, the company is also proposing a Dairy Hub. Mr Lim said the hub will be a shared facility where it can be utilised by other stakeholders, potential partners and customers.
The hub will be an “integrated facility, not just for manufacturing perspective but also for research & development, testing and even learning.”
He added that the Diary Hub will not just be for S M C Food 21 but for local companies that want to come into the ecosystem.
Though still in the proposal stage, Mr Lim said the Dairy Hub could come to fruition in three to five years’ time.
“We are already a mini Dairy Hub. This [current plant] is an ingredient-blending location. Then we have the nutrition portion [next door] … What we don’t have is the bonded warehouse, the testing lab and other manufacturing facilities.
“In a certain way, we are piloting this in our own small way with whatever resources that we have at this current juncture,” added Mr Lim.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing (above, middle) has also visited the company to view its progress in transformation and understand its future plans, in line with the Industry Transformation Map.
Mr Chan said: “It [S M C Food 21] is a very interesting example because not many people know that Singapore has such good capabilities in many of our SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises].”
He added that the focus is now more on the quality of dairy products, instead of quantity, and that is where Singaporean companies can thrive.
Struggle for Manpower
Backed by 120 employees, S M C Food 21’s Singapore plant is highly automated and manpower-lean, with 70 per cent of operations automated.
Even though automation is not new to the company, its workers constantly have to adapt to new technologies and processes that are more productive.
For example, the company recently introduced a Swiss-made canning machine which packs much faster than the previous machine.
The company is open to employing staff who do not have the necessary experience or qualifications in the food manufacturing industry because of the lack of manpower and lesser resistance to change.
It currently has an apprenticeship programme, which Mr Lim hopes will get bigger as there is not much awareness about the industry.
“When it comes to dairy, we don’t really have a lot of dairy training going on. There are hardly any dairy plants in Singapore.
“We hope we can work with our education system here to groom the next generation of dairy specialists,” said Mr Lim.