Mr Richard Koh, Group Executive Chairman, STAR International
Mr Kenny Koh, Group Managing Director, STAR International
Ms Xu Xue Ting, Group Corporate & Retail Director, STAR International,
Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) friends,
My parliamentary colleague, Mr Xie Yao Quan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. Today, I am very happy to represent the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Enterprise Singapore, Workforce Singapore, and JTC, to celebrate the opening of STAR Furniture’s new building and intelligent warehouse.
Harnessing technology to improve productivity and upskill the workforce
2. Allow me to share with you how the Government is supporting our retail sector, which includes the furniture sector. Last year, we launched the Retail Industry Transformation Map 2025 to create a vibrant, globally competitive retail landscape. Today, I am heartened to see companies like STAR International at the forefront of this transformation by working closely with colleagues from Enterprise Singapore, Workforce Singapore, and JTC.
a. You have implemented innovative digital tools to overcome challenges and seize new opportunities. I hope that more companies would follow in your footsteps and embrace technology to enhance their productivity and upskill their workforce to stay ahead of the curve.
3. Today, we are at STAR Furniture’s new building and smart warehouse, which boasts a specialised warehouse and transport management system (WMS and TMS), complete with Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV) and mobile shuttles.
a. Some business owners may ask, how would a high-tech set-up affect my bottom line? Let me share with you some figures in the case of STAR Furniture:
i. This set-up reduces stock retrieval time by 80% compared to their previous paper-based process. This allows businesses to redeploy their manpower, which is especially helpful in today’s tight labour market.
ii. At the same time, it also boosts operational efficiency significantly by 40%.
iii. Finally, incorporating these systems and machines to improve storage density has helped STAR Furniture improve its warehouse capacity by an impressive 50%, effectively addressing and overcoming the challenges posed by limited space.
4. STAR Furniture has also upgraded its systems and upskilled their 120 employees to better meet the new system's demands. STAR Furniture leveraged Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme to redesign three job roles: the Warehouse Technician, Inventory Executive and Operations Manager.
a. For example, Assistant Operations Manager Mr. Li Chun Sheng has worked for STAR Furniture for 18 years and is responsible for the company’s warehouse and logistics operations. With the introduction of the smart warehouse, Mr Li’s job has been redesigned, and he has gained new high-value skills. Instead of manual inventory management, he now supervises the operations of AGVs and mobile shuttles. When Mr Li joined the company 18 years ago, he never imagined that he would one day work with technology in this way. Reskilling not only allows him to do more, but it also helps the company to achieve more.
5. So, I encourage our companies to follow in the footsteps of STAR Furniture to press on with their transformation efforts and improve productivity. I also encourage business owners to involve your employees, like what STAR Furniture has done in this transformation journey and provide your staff with ample opportunities to upskill. At the same time, I urge staff to seize this chance to gain new competencies and skills and advance their prospects for career progression, like what Mr Li did.
Investment in product design innovation to drive growth
6. Besides upskilling its workforce, I am glad that STAR Furniture invests in product design innovation to accelerate its growth. The company collaborates with local designer studios under the Singapore Furniture Industries Council’s (SFIC) Design Innovation Programme (DIP). This initiative enjoys the support of Enterprise Singapore and seeks to enhance the design capabilities of Singapore furniture companies and create sustainable urban living solutions.
a. Here, I would like to express my appreciation to SFIC, which has been supporting our furniture companies in building their unique selling proposition, or USP, and product design innovation capabilities.
7. These collaborations have enabled STAR Furniture to spark new ideas with like-minded local designers. They have partnered with local designer studios, including Jarrod Lim Studios and A Balcony, to develop designs for one of its brands, JotterGoods, which features signature utilitarian and old-school furniture. Together, they challenged STAR Furniture’s in-house design and production capabilities and formed formidable, unique new collections, such as The Butler and The Gallery, to meet the needs, lifestyle, and challenges of modern urban living.
a. This is a good example of how a company is prepared to challenge itself –by venturing out of their comfort zone. By continuously pushing boundaries, STAR Furniture has established itself as an innovative and forward-looking brand with the potential to gain customers overseas. I am very happy to hear that JotterGoods has just been recently launched overseas. I wish Star and JotterGoods all the best in their efforts and thank you for flying the Singapore flag.
A rising star
8. As many of you would know, given our small domestic market, Singapore companies that want to keep growing must look overseas and build their markets beyond our shores.
a. STAR Furniture is a shining example of a company that has ventured into global markets, carrying the Singapore brand not just to nearby markets such as China, but as far as Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
i. The Singapore brand denotes integrity, trust, and quality. When consumers buy a product from a Singaporean brand, they are not only buying a piece of premium furniture but also a very durable product which represents Singapore.
b. I’ve also heard that at the recent Furniture China Exhibition 2023, STAR Furniture secured a new franchisee in Zhejiang and is planning to open a shop in the city of Jiaxing before the end of this year. So, congratulations to STAR Furniture. It is heartening to see our companies actively pursuing international growth.
c. I want to assure STAR Furniture and other SME owners that Enterprise Singapore remains committed to supporting your internationalisation efforts. I also encourage SME business owners to continue exploring opportunities beyond Singapore's port.
9. So again, on behalf of the Ministry Trade and Industry, Enterprise Singapore, Workforce Singapore, and JTC, let me extend our heartiest congratulations to STAR Furniture, on the opening of your new building and smart warehouse. May you rise like a shining star over new horizons and conquer new markets worldwide.
10. Finally, let me conclude with a few words in Mandarin: