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The heart of the home for so many, the kitchen has been Signature International’s main focus since it was first founded in 1994, transforming these vibrant spaces with state-of-the-art cabinetry and furnishings.
But now the Kuala Lumpur-based company is taking on a bigger mission.
Signature International, which has also established itself as a specialist in wardrobes, now aims to offer convenience to its customers by becoming a one-stop center for total home and living solutions, Group CEO Lau Kock Sang tells The CEO Magazine.
“We are continuing to position ourselves to be one of the biggest players in South-East Asia.”
“At the moment, we are transforming the business to become a total home and living solutions provider, providing not just kitchen cabinets and wardrobes but also a diverse array of offerings, including home furnishings, curtains, loose furniture, smart home systems and other furnishings,” he says.
An integral part of the organization for over a decade, Lau possesses a profound understanding of every facet of the business. This wealth of experience positions him perfectly to lead Signature International into this exciting new chapter.
His extensive knowledge about the inner workings of the business means Lau is well-equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead. Nonetheless, newcomers to the company also have a crucial role to play, bringing with them fresh ideas and different perspectives that will help to expand and evolve the business.
This new phase of Signature International’s story involves more than simply extending its product portfolio. It also encompasses an ambitious expansion strategy, according to Lau.
“We are going to expand our retail business network from 30 outlets to 100 by the end of 2024,” he says. “This is a big move for us in terms of our expansion. We are continuing to position ourselves to be one of the biggest players in South-East Asia.”
He also plans to penetrate new markets such as India and Bangladesh before taking on the rest of the world.
“We want to diversify our revenue streams and capture these untapped opportunities.”
“We want to diversify our revenue streams and capture these untapped opportunities,” he says.
Underpinning this ambitious expansion is a strong foundation of R&D, with smart technology playing an important role in the evolving company vision.
As a result, Signature International is heavily investing in this area, with an overarching plan to transform itself into a smart technology company.
“It’s a total change for us, because in this new technology world, every business has to adopt a new way of doing business,” he says. “Hence, adopting technology is a must. It is crucial for everyone.”
Automated production is a pillar of its approach as it works toward its goal of becoming a smart company, with its efforts showcased at its ‘smart factory’.
The 20,000-square-meter facility, located in Bandar Enstek, offers a seamless end-to-end solution from 3D design for customers to securing the order at the production stage – a significant shift in an industry where many players are still reliant on manual processes.
Other features include computer numerical control technology and dust-free spray painting rooms, along with vast areas dedicated to assembly and quality control of all systems before they are sent out for delivery.
“Our automated production line is the only one in South-East Asia among kitchen and wardrobe system manufacturers,” Lau says. “By focusing on this and getting it right, we aim to establish our business as a thought leader in South-East Asia.”
In addition to long-standing relationships with local suppliers such as Hafele Malaysia, Lau has another tactic up his sleeve – strategic partnerships with key players in the new markets it enters.
For example, toward the end of 2022, Signature International confirmed its intention to acquire Singapore’s Corten Interior Solutions and Areal Interior Solutions.
At the time, the company described the new additions to its stable as a perfect fit, and anticipated the deal would boost profitability.
“We acquired the largest kitchen and wardrobe system manufacturer in Singapore, which provides almost 60 percent of the high-end residential market for the kitchen and wardrobe segment,” Lau explains.
“Together with these two strategic partners, we are strengthening ourselves up to diversify our business not just in Malaysia, but also to oversee direct supplying to the customer in terms of project clientele and also our product services.”
“We need to build our talent pool in order for us to relocate or reassign our talent correctly to different tasks to expand the business.”
The evolving nature of its operations means that Signature International’s focus has also had to shift. Now, its top priority is ensuring the smart factory is driving production.
“We are still semi-manual, but we are aiming to go fully automated so we can increase our current capacity from 34 percent up to 70 or 80 percent,” Lau says. “We want to at least double production capacity. We want this to be happening hopefully by the end of this year.”
Innovating in terms of product is the second area of focus for Signature International, with the company exploring new design concepts and materials that will help it deliver comprehensive solutions that meet the needs of its customers, he explains.
“The third critical area is undoubtedly the sustainability of our business,” he emphasizes. “This primarily revolves around effective talent management, as the expansion of our business necessitates diverse skill sets.
“Therefore, we need to build our talent pool for us to relocate or reassign our talent correctly to different tasks to expand the business.”
To truly improve the sustainability of a business, it is imperative to address environmental sustainability, Lau points out. This is also crucial in order for Signature International to fulfill its commitment to cater to consumer demand.
“We are revising our product specifications to incorporate eco-friendly products and alternatives, for example,” he says. “We are totally adopting E1 materials, which is our first big move.”
Products classified as E1 do not emit more than 0.1 parts per million of formaldehyde into the ambient air.
Partnerships with visionary organizations such as DuPont Malaysia are helping them work toward such goals.
Secondly, the adoption of fully automated production improves efficiency by reducing the amount of manpower required and the amount of waste produced.
“This automated approach is inherently more environmentally friendly since the machines operate following data-driven production requirements,” he says.
Signature International places significant emphasis on its societal role, according to Lau. This commitment is exemplified through their B40 donation initiative, aimed at making kitchen cabinets accessible to all.
“We extend support to certain families in need, providing them with all the essential kitchen cabinets required to prepare a nice meal for the family,” he explains.
Finally, an internal audit process ensures proper compliance and accountability around sustainability, with a committee in place to perform a quarterly review.
It’s a sense of purpose and a thrilling momentum that found greater strength during the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Businesses have to carry on, but not just carry on the same as before the pandemic. We should carry on to greater heights.”
“Businesses have to carry on, but not just carry on the same as before the pandemic. We should carry on to greater heights,” Lau says.
“We recognize our responsibility to every member of our team, and we aim to instill hope in them for the company’s growth. Together, we can make a better living, fueled by the company’s increased revenue and profit.”
Signature International’s employee incentive program ensures that everyone, whether frontline or operational staff, has a stake in the reward system.
“That’s for them to know that we work hard together, we grow together, we achieve the targets, which subsequently unlocks rewards,” he says.
“This way, we can all move forward together.”