The Congruence of Business Management and Technological Proficiency

By Brian Lau, Managing Director, ShawKwei & Partners

Brian Lau, Managing Director, ShawKwei & Partners

Historically, for entrepreneurs and fast-growing ventures, provisioning adequate funds to facilitate enterprise development is one of the most important if not the critical factor of success. Today’s capital firms have evolved in congruence with entrepreneurs having a strong vision to develop their enterprises. One such company, ShawKwei &Partners, takes a creative approach by combining an entrepreneur’s experience in the company’s formation with their proven business management strategies to improve the work process while opening newer avenues for profit.

Established in 1999, ShawKwei & Partners invests in asset-based B2B companies with considerable franchise value. The company widely focuses on a varied set of industries which in the past has included precision engineering and manufacturing, automotive, electronics contract manufacturing, plastics injection moulding, speciality chemicals, maritime, oil and gas, and renewable energies. As one of the oldest independent private equity fund managers in Asia, ShawKwei’s extensive experience allows it to develop unique strategies, methodologies, and practices for private equity investments in Asia. For the same reason, ShawKwei received industry recognition with the Operational Excellence award in the Asia-Pacific Upper Mid-market by Private Equity International in 2017.

While interacting with APAC CIO Outlook, Brian Lau, Managing Director at ShawKwei & Partners, shares his views on working with some of the prominent manufacturing industry leaders.

How are the current technological trends disrupting the B2B organizations?

We have been investing in middle-market manufacturing and service companies operating across Asia for over 25 years. The cost of labour in this region has significantly increased since then, along with the emergence of technologies that uphold business efficiency. Back then, increasing the labour force of an

organization would essentially get most of the work done; but today, companies aspire to cut down labour costs through automation. And, some of the major technological trends are industrial revolution 4.0 and artificial intelligence (AI).

"Technology is enabling us to collect and analyze data for faster, flexible, and efficient business processes, producing higher-quality goods at reduced costs"

The industrial revolution 4.0 has brought ‘potential connectivity’ to almost every aspect of industrial operations by enhancing human-machine interaction, driving interconnectivity, information transparency, and autonomous decision-making. We utilize smart technologies extensively to streamline every facet of a business, be it physical inventory, manufacturing execution, supply chain management, logistics, customer relationships, revenue, budgets, or planning operations. Technology is enabling us to collect and analyze data for faster, flexible, and efficient business processes, producing higher-quality goods at reduced costs. This manufacturing revolution is increasing productivity, shifting economics, promoting industrial growth, and modifying the profile of the workforce— ultimately changing the competitiveness of companies and the geographical areas in which they are located.

Advanced data analytical technologies, AI, and big data are decoding manufacturing processes of critical business environments with extreme swings in variability. Given the complexity of production activities that influence yield in these industries, we are taking a more granular approach to diagnose and correct process flaws through big data analysis.

What according to you, are the best practices for capital enterprise firms to manage their portfolio companies in a streamlined manner?

Like all companies, we invest in employees, providing them with efficient tools and training resources to further improve and ease workflows. We always prioritize capital investment into the latest technologies that can automate processes, improve quality, reduce waste, and provide value to end-users. We buy companies to develop them, and one of the ways we do that is by investing in technologies and relevant workforce training operations; because innovation is the way forward. Technology can have an intangible impact on businesses, but companies have to analyze how effectively it can help them. In an instance, Shawkwei and Partners bought and upgraded a company’s warehouse management systems by investing in an automated warehousing system(AWS). This system handled picking and packing goods, eliminating the need for manual intervention. When we ran a cost-benefit analysis, the AWStechnology did not provide a large financial return on investment but drastically reduced errors in terms of orders facilitated. Utilizing high-end technology instils intangible confidence in the minds of the customers, a trend that reflects in our product quality and error-free delivery.

Please share your advice to aspiring managers in the private equity space, helping them lead their company to success.

To my private equity colleagues in the industry, I would say, do not under-invest in the companies that you’re buying. Many private equity firms enhance the management team by bringing in a new CEO and a CFO with new skill sets. But, to take a company to the next level, we have to enhance the capabilities of research and development teams for product innovations. Companies must also invest in training the workforce for efficient utilization of different technologies like CRM, ERP, warehouse management systems, and many more. On the other hand, management should focus on improving the workplace environment and also ensuring that employees are motivated to work and deliver results for which they are capable and qualified. With ubiquitous connectivity, industries can shift their back-office operations to geographical locations with less operational and labour overheads. Also, by establishing open internal communication channels, different teams can collaborate and deliver the best.

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