The Straits Times: Inclusivity and international exposure are on tap at the home of Tiger beer

The Straits Times: Inclusivity and international exposure are on tap at the home of Tiger beer
A focus on talent, training and diverse perspectives through Asia Pacific Breweries’ global network is showing direct benefits for Singapore employees.

Mr Norman Goh knows all about how to make a good beer, from fermenters and taps, even to water reuse treatment.

His skills would not have been possible if he did not work at Asia Pacific Breweries (APB). For 26 years, APB has been his home away from home.

It was where the 53-year-old engineering manager seized opportunities to learn from world experts as part of the company’s culture.

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Mr Norman Goh, APB Singapore’s engineering manager, supervises the brewery’s engineering team and is spearheading its sustainability push. PHOTO: SPH

Mr Norman Goh knows all about how to make a good beer, from fermenters and taps, even to water reuse treatment.

His skills would not have been possible if he did not work at Asia Pacific Breweries (APB). For 26 years, APB has been his home away from home.

It was where the 53-year-old engineering manager seized opportunities to learn from world experts as part of the company’s culture.

“Even after so many years, I’m still learning new things and upskilling myself in APB,” he says, noting that the brewery giant has also organised lessons in cybersecurity to avoid disruptions to operations and beer production.

Mr Chris Lee, 33, a team leader in APB’s brewing department, has also benefitted from the company’s global network and training initiatives.

Two years ago, he was part of a team that installed a $3.8 million de-alcoholiser system in the Tuas factory to produce alcohol-free beers. That project, carried out with the Economic Development Board, was Heineken’s first foray into producing alcohol-free beers in Asia. Singapore is now its Asia-Pacific (Apac) supply hub for the beers.

Before the system was built, Mr Lee travelled to Heineken’s Amsterdam headquarters to learn from experts who had been brewing zero-alcohol beers for years.

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Mr Chris Lee, a team leader in APB Singapore’s brewing department. PHOTO: SPH

The week-long stint taught him to analyse the recipe, learn how the equipment was installed and identify potential problems during the process.

“With that experience, we had a much smoother time in Singapore with our system,” he says.

That collaborative spirit continues today. He is now working with a Russian colleague, who came to Singapore from Cambodia, on a project to convert portable pumps, used to clean fermentation tanks in the Tuas factory, into automatic pumps.

With this transformation, APB operators will be able to oversee the tanks’ cleaning from a control room instead of carrying it out manually with the portable pumps.

Mr Lee says: “Innovation is key to businesses. As part of a global firm, like Heineken, we can learn from colleagues worldwide, bring these lessons back to Singapore and launch projects within the shortest possible time to benefit the company and country.”

Innovation is key to businesses. As part of a global firm like Heineken, we can learn from colleagues worldwide, bring these lessons back to Singapore and launch projects within the shortest possible time to benefit the company and country.

MR CHRIS LEE, on the advantages of working in an international team

Grooming talent, nurturing leaders

When Ms Heng Shwu Jiun, 40, was offered the opportunity to join APB as its sales director in February last year, she grabbed it. She had spent 19 years in the fast-moving consumer goods industry in local and regional positions, and was eager to take on new challenges and further grow her career.

Today, she oversees a division of over 500 employees, including sales executives, brand promoters and account managers.

She notes that Heineken has programmes for staff to explore different parts of the business, transfer skills between local and foreign employees and groom talent for leadership positions.

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As sales director, Ms Heng Shwu Jiun oversees a division of over 500 employees. PHOTO: SPH

Staff can request short-term postings of six to nine months to other departments or markets to expand their skill sets and deepen their understanding of Heineken’s operations. They are encouraged to bring what they learn back to APB. “We also have short-term assignments in Singapore for staff from other countries to plug our knowledge gaps here,” she says.

She adds that APB promotes skills transfers in other ways. “For example, I have an Italian team member who came to Singapore from the Philippines in March to take on the new role of head of trade marketing and train employees in the field.”

She explains that APB aims to build stronger commercial capabilities in trade marketing, which focuses on customer and consumer engagement.

APB will tap this colleague’s professional experience and knowledge from working in Heineken’s other operating companies. “With his mentorship, we believe that our local team will significantly improve its commercial capabilities in trade marketing efforts in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Graduates who want to join Heineken’s Apac branches can also apply online to its Apac Graduate Programme, which is a two-year rotation across three of its more than 20 Apac operating companies to expose them to different work environments and experiences. Since the programme started in 2016, it has enrolled over 150 Asian employees who have gone on to leadership positions within Heineken.

Ms Heng is currently enrolled in an eight-month leadership programme called the Management Team and Beyond Fast Track Programme. Participants attend weekly group learning and development sessions, and have one-on-one coaching to better understand their personal values and motivations and hone their leadership capabilities.

“We also get feedback from our peers, superiors and subordinates. As a working mother who is time-poor, coupled with my own personal strong drive for results, that can translate into pressure I put on myself and my team. That needs to be balanced consciously as it is important to balance people and business results,” she says.

She credits APB’s longstanding success to these training programmes and initiatives. “When you have a healthy balance of local and foreign employees, and an inclusive environment that encourages debate, discussion, skills transfers and growth, you get a workforce that has more diverse perspectives and more capabilities. That benefits everyone.”

About the home of Tiger Beer

90 years old

Founded in 1931, APB started out as a homegrown brewery after a late-night drinking session between executives from beverage conglomerates Heineken and Fraser and Neave, better known as F&N.

Globally acclaimed brands

APB has 19 brands and more than 179 products. These include iconic local brand Tiger Beer and Heineken. Tiger Beer has won more than 40 awards internationally.

Giving back

The company employs more than 800 people in Singapore. It gives back to the community through its philanthropic arm, the APB Foundation, which has donated to causes and charities such as the Migrant Workers’ Centre and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. The foundation also partners with local charity SPD on the APB Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities.