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By Anita Devasahayam

April 01, 2000

Information: Key to Knowledge

Knowledge Management is relatively new in Malaysia. As companies grapple with it, others are taking the bull by its horn to introduce smart management practices within their organisation.

Food and beverage manufacturer Yeo Hiap Seng (M) Sdn Bhd (Yeos) is among the few that has placed a high value on strategic information.

According to MIS manager Jimmy Tan Thiam Hin, Yeos is traditionally a conservative company that strongly believes in getting the most value out of any investment made.

Yeos, which had its beginnings in Amoy, China 100 years ago April this year, chalked up sales of RM484 million in 1998.

As its business grew tremendously in the last decade, the PC-based server in place simply ran out of steam due to the huge volume and data crunching activity and was replaced by power packed Unix servers.

"It made business sense to pump up more resources to the back end of the computing system instead of limiting and straining ourselves. For the management it was a matter of growing the business or not at all. They chose to stay and hence allowed the MIS department to revamp the foundation," Tan revealed.

Yeos began introducing information technology to the workplace more than 10 years ago. From 1996 up till last year, about RM5 million was spent on revamping the disparate computer systems. Prior to this, the budget for technology was about RM500,000 a year

Tan said that the management was lucid about its objectives in using information technology. "They want to increase sales without incurring additional manual process. It was a case of doing more with the same amount of people yet free them from the mundane paperwork to concentrate on their job," he added

As they delved deeper into using technology to improve bottom line, the company realised the need to provide vital information in a clipped and pertinent fashion to management.

And the company began to put in place a system what somewhat mirrors a knowledge management system.

The system automatically produces weekly reports for management to eyeball the sales and distribution progress. Tan said that implementation exercise was completed just before the Lunar New Year this February.

"The timing was critical as most people were used to generating monthly reports and did not have their documentation in order to produce weekly reports. But we pushed for them to key in the data daily so that they can come out with weekly reports and did not have to rush to do it at the end of week," he added. He admitted while teething problems persist as everyone adjusted to new deadlines, they were well aware that it was a management requirement and therefore have no choice.

The integrated computing system already in place was indeed a bonus as data is captured in one source, reducing duplicity. "We are in the midst of improving reports using a management information tool for our bosses to group data into the way they want to see it. They don't want to see rows and columns of figures," Tan said.

He added that the ultimate aim is to for management staff to generate their own reports.

For instance, if the manager wants to know how a new product is doing in the market, he just needs to key in the name of the product and a few variables related to it to generate a report on how it is doing in the market.

"Right now we are bridging that gap and when the senior management is becomes more tech savvy, they can collate the data independently," Tan said.

Published in Intelligent Enterprise Asia, April 2000

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