Words by Hoe Ziqian
Although their production methods have changed over the years, the original values of Ee Hui have stood the test of time.
The story of Ee Hui Food Manufacture Pte Ltd reads somewhat like a modern-day tale of rags-to-riches. Its humble origins began in a wet market stall in the 1980s where fish balls and fish cakes were made solely by hand. Fast forward to today where they have a sprawling 30,000 square feet production factory in Senoko, one might be mistaken for assuming that things have been smooth sailing thus far, but little did they realise the grit and determination that the company had to demonstrate in order to reach where it is today.
Ee Hui initially traded its wet market stall for a small 1,200 square feet industrial site in Bukit Batok, but has since expanded its production site twice, moving to a full-fledged 15,000 square feet site in Senoko before doubling its space at its current location due to the demands of an increasing order volume. On any given day, the factory runs at full capacity, with more than a third of the space dedicated to production.
The company manufactures a diverse range of seafood products from fresh and selected handmade products to Yong Tau Foo and frozen varieties and its distribution network extends beyond the shores of Singapore to a loyal customer base from all around the world, reaching as far as Australia, Canada and USA.
Production techniques might have improved over the years and automation might have become the new buzzword in modern day production, but Ee Hui has stayed true to its founding values to this day. Despite the advent of technology, the company has been steadfast in its pursuit to preserve the quality and taste of its products. For Ee Hui, there is no compromise when it comes to the quality of its products and they take great pride in proclaiming that their products have maintained the same high standards since day one. Made fresh-daily and chemical-free.
It is not easy trying to balance traditional methods in an age of rapid industrialisation. Through careful planning, Ee Hui has managed to weave in the use of automation and technology into their production process. For instance, while the mixing and preparation of the raw ingredient mixture is automated, the delicate skill of forming the end products like the Yong Tau Foo are still done by hand. What you get is an intricate mix of volume and efficiency but with a personal touch, and most importantly the original taste of the product is preserved.
The company also recognises the importance of a safe and conducive environment for its workers, especially the more elderly members of their production crew. The team at Ee Hui reviewed their production workflows and identified key areas for improvement through an active collaboration with NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
Previously, older workers in Ee Hui’s production team are required to transfer all the packed frozen goods scheduled for the next day’s delivery into a cold room and load the same items onto the refrigerated truck on the actual day of delivery. Other than being a tedious and time-consuming chore, the delivery driver is required to wait between 1 to 1.5 hours for pre-cooling of the truck before the goods from the cold room can be loaded onto his truck. The whole workflow poses a significant physical strain on the older workers.
By partnering with e2i on the WorkPro Job Redesign grant, Ee Hui implemented the use of an insulated box with refrigeration system which is mounted onto the back of their delivery trucks. There is power charging available on the box, so it stays refrigerated even when the engine of the truck is turned off. This allows the finished products to move straight off the production line and directly into the insulated box for the next morning’s delivery. The production team no longer needs to arrive earlier each morning to manually load the products onto the delivery trucks, saving the company precious man hours.
To further strengthen its efficiency gains, Ee Hui introduced an automatic conveyor machine to its production line. Processed products can now be placed onto the conveyor machine, which transports them to the automatic wrapping station for sealing. This makes the work easier and safer for the older workers as there is no longer a need for heavy lifting of goods.
While the initiatives implemented in Ee Hui are relatively subtle, they have a far reaching impact in improving the safest and productivity for its workers. The company has managed to harmonise a rare mix of traditional and modern techniques and made it into the driving force behind its growth and expansion.