Handling a customised cake order used to be a tricky exercise at bakery and cafe chain Swissbake.
It is the kind of business that the company is eager to do, but previously, there was a high chance of messing up the order and losing the customer.
"If we did a customised cake and the wrong name was on it, customers would be disappointed," said executive director KJ Low.
"This happened pretty often - once a week on average. We had to get the central kitchen to do up a new card and get the driver to send it to the outlet."
Swissbake has 10 outlets, as well as 11 retail bakeries and 22 bread shelves inside Cold Storage supermarkets. It also supplies items to hotels, cafes and other restaurants under Swiss-Treats.
Under its old system, when an outlet received a cake order, the staff would fill out a carbon copy form. The customer would get a copy, and the outlet would fax its copy to the Swissbake headquarters in Boon Lay, where the central kitchen is located.
Problems cropped up when names were misspelt or requests misunderstood. It was not always the fault of the staff, as fax transmissions can be hard to read.
"Sometimes, faxes got transmitted halfway. You had to do it again, or there would be a lot of phone calls back and forth to check the details," said Mr Low.
When he joined Swissbake in 2011, he knew something had to be done. The company was growing, and its internal processes were not scalable, he said.
"I noticed there was too much firefighting on a daily basis, and it was an area where we could improve. We could leverage on technology."
Swissbake used to have one full-time employee collating all the data and putting it in an Excel file. "We thought: 'If we add more outlets, how are we going to handle it?'," said Mr Low. Moreover, Swissbake has plans to expand overseas.
It decided to adopt an electronic retail-ordering system.
"We discussed it with our IT vendor... met up with Spring Singapore and presented our idea. They said it was a good project and it moved quite fast," said Mr Low. "We submitted our request for the grant in December 2011 and got the approval in January."
A new Web-based system was implemented about a year ago and was fully operational by May. Now, each order gets transmitted electronically to the company's headquarters. At the same time, an e-mail goes to the customer to confirm the order.
Staff now access the system on a tablet computer, which makes stock replenishments far easier.
"Previously, we could not fax too many forms in advance. Now, we can order in advance through the system," said operations manager Sheila Lee.
"The system makes life a lot easier. It eliminates the need to fax and, hence, disputes between HQ and the outlets."
She added: "There are also no disputes between customers and the outlets. Now, if they want to change the cake flavour or the wording on the cake, they e-mail us and our HQ handles it. The outlets just receive the final confirmation."
The next step for Swissbake, which plans to open five outlets this year, is to look into establishing a service mindset, said Mr Low.
The problem, though, is high staff turnover.
"What we have been facing for the past year is a shortage of staff. Most of our staff have to do extended shifts, but that's not a long-term solution," said Mr Low. "Maybe, we will need to fine-tune our concept."