Information technology is in our blood, says Samuel Chen, chief operating officer at KH Roberts Group, on the bold steps taken by the company to leverage technology.
A pioneer in the industry in South- east Asia since 1968, the company, which produces food flavours, colours and specialty ingredients that are sold mainly to food & beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers, launched its web portal as part of an effort to increase productivity.
The system, which has different modules to handle enquiries, complaints and various resources, has been rolled out in phases since 2010.
A flavour library, which was launched recently, was designed to help sales staff better match flavours to customers' needs.
"Previously, we'd send our sales staff out with stacks of paper brochures to recommend flavours. The problem is that it is just a piece of paper and information is static. But every quarter, we have new flavours which the sales team might miss out on," says Mr Chen.
"Or, they may be approached by a customer that is unique to them. It helps that our sales team has a tool that can search all the flavours we have, and recommend the right one."
Using the system, a sales agent would not only be able to access the full list of flavours the company markets, they would also be able to sift out specific flavours based on the application a client needs the flavouring for.
Explains Mr Chen: "Food flavouring is a value-added ingredient.
There's no one-size- fits-all solution. Say for orange flavouring, we can't sell this to 10 customers because different markets have different taste profiles.
Then of course, there are the specifics of applications, e.g. biscuits versus ice cream or liquid milk."
The system will have additional modules that will further enhance the internal workflow and task management among the network of staff.
Explains Tan Pok Kiam, group business manager at KH Roberts: "In the past, if a customer wanted a flavour that is not available in the market, they would tell our sales representative, who would tell us, before we go to the technical experts - the flavourists. There is a lot of relaying of messages, and the message may get lost along the way."