A global outlook has always been the key to success for local precision manufacturer Grand Team Technologies (GTT) although there have been rough patches along the way.

One of its biggest hurdles was a disagreement about going overseas when it was desperate to drum up some business.

The company, which was set up in 1999 through the merger of Grand Advanced Technologies and Team Electro, initially rode on a rising wave of demand as the economy bounced back from the Asian financial crisis, said managing director Jason Ng.

Three years later, its fortunes changed in the wake of the Sars (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis, which hit the aerospace industry, one of GTT's major clients, particularly hard.

"It was a real horror. Everybody panicked. The market was very slow, and business activity slowed down. Aerospace went down a lot at that time. We couldn't run away from these problems," recalls Mr Ng.

China was still enjoying steady growth, and many Singapore firms were moving overseas.

Mr Ng, 48, and his partners discussed the possibility of doing so but as GTT was a small firm with insufficient funds, his partners were reluctant to take the risk.

Because their "vision was not united", the partners left to form their own company, taking the plastic moulding segment of the business with them - and leaving GTT to shoulder all the debts.

However, the sales office it had set up in Thailand in 2002 was able to exploit the strong Thai economy and help Grand Team bounce back.

Mr Ng says: "The Thai government strongly promoted foreign investment. The stabilities of Thai government and political environment were good, and the macro-environment was positive.

"Many businesses such as microelectronics and semiconductors invested in Thailand, expanding their facilities to increase production volumes thanks to high market demand."

The company continues to focus on precision engineering, supplying parts to the semiconductors, security and medical industries among others.

It still benefits strongly from global demand, with 80 per cent of its business coming from overseas. Its products are sold in China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Europe, among other places.

While he declines to reveal its annual revenue, Mr Ng does say that turnover has grown from the "hundred thousands" at the start, to "millions". Staff strength, too, has grown from 10 initially to 30.

Mr Ng attributes GTT's success to a "culture of precision".

"Nowadays China and its neighbouring countries are quite rich. They can buy a lot of sophisticated, expensive machines, but there's still something missing. It's more than just the necessary skillset. It's also a culture of precision - an art. You need to appreciate precision," he notes.

Mr Ng traces his love of precision engineering back to his tertiary school days when he was sent first to Germany and then to Japan. At the time, the Economic Development Board was heavily promoting precision engineering, setting up schools like the German- Singapore Institute, which Mr Ng attended.

That background instilled in him a desire to continually hone the firm's engineering skills.

Mr Ng says GTT can manufacture parts with a precision of two microns, or 0.002mm.

One of its notable projects was the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where GTT helped manufacture the security access cards.

GTT is planning to expand to Iskandar this year, a move prompted by labour issues.

"It's not just (foreign worker levies). Most Singaporean families have one or two children only, so it's not easy to get younger workers to join factory life."

Mr Ng sees great potential in Iskandar: "The local government is really paying attention to constructing the roads, constructing the basic infrastructure to provide easy access to the airport.

"Many people would say it's quite slow, not like Singapore. But I believe the Malaysian government will really execute its infrastructure projects well by the time we move in."

The company has bought a factory in a mature estate near Senai International Airport for RM4 million (S$1.5 million).

The skill side of the equation is being met through the internal training that all the employees go through. But Mr Ng adds that rather than employ more staff, his goal is to increase productivity through automation.