PEOPLE are the key asset and driver of a company's growth.

That is why Mr Paul Yeo, group managing director and chief executive officer of Fagerdala, envisaged creating centres of excellence (COEs) about two years ago. This was realised as part of the organisation's human resource (HR) overhaul last year.

"I wanted to create positions where individuals are employed to just think, brainstorm, develop, create and innovate for key areas of growth for the company," Mr Yeo said.

Their task: to build a knowledge bank and arsenal of ideas and strategies to help the operations team move forward in this challenging global environment.

He continued: "The COEs force us to constantly explore and test new strategies to boost the company's performance and productivity as we anticipate our customer's needs."

The centres will create white papers for Fagerdala and also provide staff training in various areas of expertise, including HR and administration, engineering automation, packaging design, quality, safety and environmental matters, finance and risk governance, and global business development.

"In the past, our focus was on growing the business. We managed each problem as it surfaced, and policies were decentralised and customised. Now that the company has grown, it's time to look into important issues like standardisation, business excellence, risk governance and business continuity plans," said Ms Diane Yeo, Mr Yeo's daughter and director of corporate and legal affairs.

The complete overhaul of its HR system was a turning point for the total packaging solutions firm, which specialises in cushion packaging for highly sensitive "shock and vibration" equipment, mainly for the IT, biomedical and telecommunications industries.

The company's core strength is in its upstream and downstream integration, from producing polyethylene foam to customised packaging designs, and process engineering through automation.

The company restructure, which would affect 1,200 staff members globally, of whom 53 are based in Singapore, was made possible with the support of an HR Capability Programme offered by Spring Singapore.

"The 50per cent funding enabled us to engage external consultants to help us restructure our HR framework - from recruitment, selection and induction to professional development, performance management and evaluation, talent management, career progression and compensation," said Mr Yeo.

These efforts have helped Fagerdala attract and develop new talent to drive the company to the next stage of growth, said Ms Yeo.

Herself a fresh talent, Ms Yeo was coaxed by her father last year to return from Melbourne, Australia, where she worked as a solicitor, to join Fagerdala to "build and develop the company's internal resources and deal with issues with fresh eyes", said Mr Yeo.

Ms Yeo, who is also the group's corporate counsel, was tasked with the HR overhaul when she joined the company. She created and developed the Corporate Shared Services Group, where all policies, systems and standard operating procedures are centralised.

This nexus is timely, given Fagerdala's rapidly expanding global footprint. Opening on average one new factory every year since 1998, the company now operates 13 facilities in six countries - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China, the United States and Mexico. It hopes to continue expanding its presence in the US before turning to Eastern Europe.

"With a multinational and multicultural workforce, our shared HR handbook and toolkits have become our common language across countries," said Mr Yeo.

With the HR restructuring in good progress, Fagerdala has embarked on the next phase of its HR Capability initiative, with 70 per cent funding from Spring. The project: to groom its future leaders to realise the vision to grow more factories outside Singapore.

It is developing an in-house management training programme, where promising candidates will be put on an accelerated career track and progression in the company. They will be exposed to different work environments and challenges. This will make succession planning more structured and systematic.

"We hope to groom these young talents to take over key leadership positions in 10 to 15 years' time. Then, I'll be ready to retire," said 60-year-old Mr Yeo, smiling.