Responsibility and integrity. These two words are key to Dorcas Teo, executive director, Nordic Group Limited and CEO of Nordic Flow Control. Her bubbly personality and effervescent spirit have helped her weather many an industry storm.
Goh Tz’en Long files this story.
She feels that when a customer has entrusted her with an order, she is responsible to deliver the work, must have the integrity to fulfil the trust that the customer has placed in her.
Despite the worst of the first Covid-19 pandemic wave, Nordic Flow Control had improved on its performance in 2019, at the end of 2020.
When Nordic was having problems finding human resources, Dorcas’ sales team, and support staff came to the fore, and their commitment moved her. They donned coveralls, went down to the production floor to take over the production workers’ role in assembly.
“The Chinese have a saying that when there is an adversity, there is also an opportunity,” says Dorcas. She has obviously made it a personal trait to look for such opportunities.
One of the key things that Nordic did throughout all of 2020 was to focus on cost and innovation. “Fortunately for us, we scaled down our operations in China, brought back production to Singapore. The overall marine industry had shrunk, both in Singapore and China. So, we consolidated our resources in Singapore, and that was a good decision for us.”
She motivates herself by telling herself that there is still potential in the Marine industry as long as there is cargo that planes would not carry.
“What is the greatest challenge that we are facing in Singapore? I think first and foremost is the overall market size. Singapore was the world leader, in jackups and semi-submersibles. When the announcement came from Keppel that they were not going to do the offshore business itself – that meant a lot to SMEs like us, because we are their supporting backyards,” says Dorcas.
One issue faced is that the size of the market is getting smaller. Secondly, the local yard is also finding it hard to compete with the neighbouring shipyards. She says, “I believe this would be the main issue that the SME is facing, other than the shrinking of the market size. To add on, an issue that the SME is facing is with the human resources – the workers.”
“There are certain situations that we have to admit, such as the fact that Singaporeans may not be interested in the labourers’ kind of work, which has been filled by the foreign workers.”
Another problem faced is, of engineers. She believes that the greatest challenge over the near term is to find the real skillsets of Marine people that can support the market in the next 10 years.
Dorcas used to have a recurrent dream when she first joined Nordic. One of the dreams that she used to have was that of a ship with a ring above it. She has often approached her R&D staff to explain the meaning behind that dream.
This is the insight she has gained. When it comes to ‘digitalisation’, the ‘ring’, stands for “cloud services”. Equipment on board, Dorcas explains, if it is not able to communicate with this ring, would eventually be phased out of the market.
Nordic’s R&D team developed the system they are currently using.
“We don’t need to send our service engineer on board the vessel. Yet, we can still commission the system, and this came in a very timely manner because of covid. It is exceedingly difficult for the engineers to travel on board, or across the country,” says Dorcas.
Dorcas relates that when Nordic had vessels that needed to be upgraded, one in Turkey and one in China, the engineers were unable to travel from Singapore. Nordic’s team of engineers were actually in their Singapore office, locally commissioning the system with a minimum workforce on site.
She says, “The local engineers there were sending the information to Nordic in Singapore, and we helped them to troubleshoot.”
The benefit of digitalisation is, according to Dorcas, “Any lady engineer should be able to join me. Because you don’t need to be going on board anymore. You can still do your software and everything, in the office. And all this is possible because of digitalisation.”
She says enthusiastically, “We are a system integrator of control systems, as long as you want to automate your system, we have a solution to offer. Whether it is a jack up, or a marine vessel like bulk carrier, or container vessel or chemical tankers; we have something to offer, because we oversee the Valve Remote Control Systems!”