Seiko Aluminium Architectural Wall Systems Pte Ltd has won the Enterprise 50 award for three straight years - after having started out in 1978 as a glass subcontractor.
It had switched its focus to the provision of aluminium architectural products when it saw the growth potential in this area. Along the way, it has introduced technology into its operations to come up with custom-made products such as curtain walls, aluminium cladding systems, high-performance windows and doors systems, louvres and sunshades.
Evidence of its work is everywhere - from Orchard Road to the heartlands: Home and commercial building facades are no longer simply mortar and stone. They now incorporate glass and aluminium, created by technology that melds aesthetics with function.
Rodney Cheong, Seiko's managing director, said: "My vision is for Seiko to become one of the most reliable and service-oriented facade specialist contractors in the region, focusing on buildings with more challenging and unique architecture."
Seiko does not just produce the aluminium architectural products; it oversees the whole process - from design-engineering to production to installation at the work site, customising the product to the needs of the project. Seiko is behind the facades of, among others, the Carlton Hotel extension in Bras Basah Road, Helios Residences in Cairnhill Road and Vision Crest Commercial in Clemenceau Avenue.
This leading player in the building facade industry is no stranger to awards and accolades for its work: It has won the PSB ISO 9000, a quality-system certification; it also has IQNet accreditation for quality management and the BS OHSAS 18001 for safety management.
Mr Cheong listed the qualities that set Seiko apart from its competitors: its emphasis on quality, on-time project completion, high profit margin, flexibility and adaptability in utilising international resources to reduce cost and raise the experience level of its workforce.
Seiko has entrenched these as values in its business model because, in this highly competitive sector where a limited number of tenders are called, developers, architects and construction companies place a premium on sub-contractors who keep to deadlines and offer high-quality products and services.
And instead of competing for the mega projects dominated by the Chinese, Japanese, American and European multinational corporations, Seiko focuses on the smaller and medium-sized projects to cultivate relationships with its clients.
In any high-tech sector, innovation is the name of the game. Seiko has dedicated itself to innovation at all levels - from cost-cutting and productivity-enhancing initiatives to product-design innovation. Its investments in R&D have produced new products; it pioneered the motorised perforated panel system to be used as a sun-shading device, which will feature on the facade of the Le Nouvel Ardmore in Singapore. Seiko's record of offering value-engineering options has won it yet more tenders. It has bagged the one for the Lincoln Suites Residential project on Lincoln Road.
Seiko has eschewed an aggressive growth strategy for one that would develop the firm at a controlled pace, in sync with the availability of resources. Its search for new opportunities and contracts is thus governed by the amount of resources it has on hand, in order to keep faith with its business philosophy of turning out high-quality and on-time services.
To cement its market position and best the competition, it has expanded into various points on its supply chain: Seikotech Architectural Components Sdn Bhd was set up in Malaysia in 1996 to supply aluminium architectural products. This in-house sourcing has enabled Seiko to procure quality products at lower prices. Seiko also established a design, drafting and engineering office in Shanghai in 2007 to tap into the larger pool of design talents in China.
However, the company still faces challenges. One lies in its reliance on foreign workers to supplement its workforce. As a result of the recent tightening of laws on the use of such workers and cost pressures, the entire construction industry, Seiko included, has come under pressure to raise productivity.
The company has been working on this by tapping the potential of technology and better management systems. It has formed an innovation and productivity committee to spearhead innovation within the company and has involved its employees in increasing productivity in all aspects of its operations. And as buildings are being assessed for the "Green Mark", Seiko is also working on products that answer the quest for environmental sustainability.
Attracting and developing talent is also on the company's agenda. Its incentives for deserving employees are higher than that of its competitors', but still, the grime and toil that jobs in the construction industry demand are limiting the effectiveness of such perks in attracting young talent. Not having new blood to bring in fresh ideas could well stymie Seiko's capacity to innovate.
Indeed, the challenges that threaten Seiko's market position are, namely, increased labour costs, shortage of skilled labour and the immense pressure to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. It has to count on its management, its operational efficiencies arising from its vertically integrated group structure and its policy of pursuing long-term sustainable growth to thrive in such a challenging business landscape.