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Interview

Dorcas Teo, CEO, Nordic Flow Control, Singapore

09.06.2014 / Energyboardroom

The CEO of Nordic Flow Control describes the Singaporean-based company’s rise from a mere service agent to an SGX-listed and fully integrated automation solutions provider with a focus on the marine and offshore oil and gas industries. Having identified certain market gaps for integrated solutions, the CEO goes on to explain the strategies designed to enhance the company’s product portfolio while maintaining its growth momentum in Singapore and abroad.

Nordic Flow Control started as a service agent and has evolved into one of Singapore’s leading Small-medium enterprises (SMEs). What have been Nordic Flow’s core corporate milestones?

Established in 1998, we have leapt from a mere service agent, to a fully integrated automation solutions provider. In 1998, we were a tiny company consisting of five people and two desks. Over time, we have established a manufacturing capability and a large-scale marketing team. In 2010, the progress of the company reached a new peak when it listed on the SGX. Through unwavering energy, commitment and determination, we have secured our place as one of Singapore’s premier automation service companies and taken the Nordic Flow flag to a number of national markets. Today, our main competitors are Emerson Process Management and to compete with such an entity, we have to keep evolving and adapting.

What are the key factors in driving the ascent of Nordic Flow Control?

One word: people. The greatest motivation and driver that we have is our people. From the very inception of the company, our people have wanted to make Nordic Flow a Singaporean success story. They have shown unflinching faith in our products and brand.

Nordic Flow believes in mentorship programmes and we have a number in place. For instance, we have a buddy system to foster togetherness and unity. We have a horizontal structure based on shared learning and understanding. We want our employees – both in terms of character and skill – to grow into the company and better themselves. Investing in our people is absolutely paramount to our success.

Elaborating on the structure & subsidiaries of Nordic Flow, can you give us an insight into the ranging services the company offers stakeholders in the marine and offshore oil and gas industry?

Nordic Flow Group oversees and owns the varying subsidiaries and services that we provide. We primarily serve the marine and offshore oil and gas industries, targeting a dual platform: the ship-owners and shipyards. Since our founding, we have established a strong reputation in providing consistent and reliable solutions to more than 1,000 vessels for more than 100 customers in our Systems Integration and MRO and Trading divisions, as well as a stable customer base of more than ten in our Precision Engineering division. Nordic’s Systems Integration and Precision Engineering operations are based in Singapore and China, with our head office and warehouse located in Singapore and two production facilities located in Suzhou, China.

We have developed greater traction in China than in other markets. Ultimately, it is a country that we could not ignore. Indeed, today we have a strong local presence in China with two production facilities located in Suzhou. The fact we are a Singaporean company and have a superb track record with the domestic yards, allowed us to leverage the stamp of quality that is associated with Singapore and take that into China.

In 2011, Nordic Flow Group acquired Multiheight Group to diversify into Scaffolding Services business. How has this investment return panned out and what synergies have you been able to leverage from this acquisition?

Traditionally, we have always pursued marine and offshore plays. However, through our subsidiary, Multiheight Group, we provide a full suite of safety-certified metal scaffolding systems, including design, erection, modification, dismantling, sales and rental, servicing the onshore oil and gas and petrochemical industries. Located in Singapore, Multiheight is the resident contractor for major local and multinational companies in the onshore oil and gas industry. They have successfully penetrated into a market that is associated with very high barriers: the petrochemical arena in Jurong Island. As such, the competition is less in this area and we are well poised to exploit that facet and add on further Nordic Flow products.

This acquisition has diversified our business scope and opened ourselves up to a thriving niche in the energy market. Moreover, since entering China, 70 percent of our business has stemmed from China and we became susceptible to foreign exchange volatility. Working with Multiheight, a very successful and well organized Singaporean company, has helped us to re-balance our country focus towards Singapore and mitigate our foreign exchange exposure.

The offshore automation market is a very crowded sector. What competitive edge does Nordic Flow have over international competitors?

We differentiate ourselves from our large competitors because we are smaller and more nimble. Such traits allow us to be more focused: a vital characteristic in this market. The multinationals may have an edge in the area of huge budgets for new technology. Nevertheless, our designs are incredibly innovative and compact. In one product, we offer one holistic solution for one price. This strategy manifests a great competitive advantage over our rivals.

Nordic Flow is also fortunate to have the backing of the Singapore government and this principally comes through SPRING. SPRING Singapore is an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry responsible for helping Singapore enterprises grow and establish trust in Singapore products and services. As the enterprise development agency, SPRING works with partners to help enterprises in financing, skill development and management, technology and innovation, and access to markets. They have given Nordic Flow a huge amount of support on certain projects and supplemented the development of some of our cutting edge technology, such as our Remote Access System. The support given by SPRING is a further example of the conducive business environment that Singapore has carefully cultivated.

What is the next phase of growth for the company?

Will are looking to develop more products for our customer base and build on the solid platform that we have constructed. The marine market is a very fragmented one and there is a demand from the shipyards for the integrated solutions we provide. We are looking to enhance our integrated platform through inorganic growth: acquiring or partnering with exceptional local companies.

Numerous Singaporean SME companies have excellent local products but have struggled to project their services to a wider, international audience. The big need to help the small. Nordic Flow’s management approach and broad resource base can facilitate the overseas expansion of Singaporean oil and gas companies. We are looking to help and partner quality Singaporean companies so that they can leverage on ourselves to expand globally.

We are always open to growth sprouting opportunities and one has arisen in Europe. There is a very good, old marine company in the UK that is looking to export their products into Asia. We can help them achieve that vision and as such, we are actively looking at bringing them on board the Nordic Flow ship. Furthermore, we are looking to bring Multiheight overseas.

As a young company, with a young talent force, we have the energy, will and creativity to grow considerably. I am thrilled about the future of Nordic Flow Group.

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