Getting To Know Surbana Jurong
Among the highlights of the recent Young NTUC 2019 Workplan Seminar in Manila was a visit to Surbana Jurong Group’s office. There, they got to learn more about how the Singaporean company has been able to expand its operations overseas and tap the available resources in the Philippines, to improve their competitiveness both in Singapore and in the 40 different markets they operate in.
At the same time, the 422 young union leaders also learnt more about how the labour-management relationship between the company’s management and staff has been pivotal in its growth to become one of Asia’s leading urban and infrastructure consulting firms.
As a case in point, the HDB homes, multi-storey carparks and buildings that house public amenities in Singapore are just some of the projects helmed by Surbana Jurong. And during their visit, the young leaders also received a glimpse of the work behind a marquee project for Surbana Jurong in the Philippines – the development of the New Clark City, touted as the first smart, green and disaster-resilient city in the country.
Despite its success, good labour-management relations remain at the heart of Surbana Jurong’s focus.
Sharing just how it works between the company and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU), union representative and Surbana Jurong branch official Chua Chew Sin said that it was crucial to build mutual trust, which in turn leads to a conducive work environment.
Addressing the young unionists and company management representatives, Chew Sin shared that negotiations between the union and Surbana Jurong are conducted openly and fairly. The company is also focused on the development of its workforce, and will soon establish a training committee to upskill staff. At the same time, it is also very supportive of the union and its leaders. Should grievances occur, there is also a commitment to resolve them at the lowest levels as quickly as possible.
The young unionists also learnt a little more about how Surbana Jurong overcomes business challenges, such as the shortage of manpower, by leveraging technology and expanding its operations overseas.
One of the ways it has done so is through artificial intelligence (AI) in its Global Shared Services (GSS) department. This technology has enabled a computer system to take over mundane roles, such as the processing of payroll. This is not only more manpower efficient but frees up resources to do more higher-value work, and allows staff to pick up new skills, such as system management.
“It was eye-opening for me to see how AI and other technologies have impacted their business in the GSS. I am really impressed with the demonstration of how the automated system processed staff payroll to improves productivity, increases cost efficiency and most importantly, achieves zero errors,” shared Christine Chua from the Singapore Chinese Teachers’ Union.
On the business front, the young leaders saw how the modelling of Surbana Jurong’s projects gets done in its Global Design Centre. There, technical tasks such as the drafting of building models (including projects in Singapore), are done by staff in their Manila office. There, the use of computer software helps make the process faster and more accurate.
“The use of technology at Surbana Jurong is fascinating. Using their Building Information Modelling (BIM) software, the staff could provide clients and estimate of the costs and even create models of the projects,” shared Dominic Yong from the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union.