AMREP Supplier Management Services has been in business for over 30 years. In this interview with Sharon Wong from the Singapore Quality Reliability Association, now known as the Singapore Quality Reliability Association, our founder and retired CEO, Derrick Goh, speaks about how he started the company.
Sharon: You’ve been in the business of managing supplier quality since 1982. Can you tell me what led you to establish the company?
Derrick: 30 to 35 years ago, the PC revolution also created the outsourcing movement. This was led by American PC companies. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan were the key Asian hubs for manufacturing for these companies. Singapore was just opening itself up for manufacturing, beginning with the arrival of Rollei Manufacturing, a German camera and lens manufacturer. This created new possibilities and a changed industrial environment in Singapore.
At that time I was working at Intertek Singapore. Jim McKay had hired me. The company was then quite unknown in Asia and it had mainly US defence clients. My eyes were wide open. I saw that the needs of the new type of customers did not tally with Intetek’s business management view. The emerging sourcing platform, based on global supply chains, was being structured on new rising technologies. The traditional pre-shipment inspection business was not the game to be in. There were new customer needs. A new business setup was required.
That’s when I decided to leave Intertek and start AMREP.
Sharon: Who was your first client?
Derrick: As with any new business, starting out was very hard. I had very little resources, I had only a 2-person office and I encountered lots of scepticism towards my vision of supplier management. It’s extremely difficult for small local companies to attract high calibre employable staff because of the salaries they require. I did everything. The marketing, the business strategizing, the customer meetings, the recruitment, the personnel management, the finances.
One day, an IBM Procurement Engineer from the IBM International Procurement Office in Singapore visited me. IBM then was one of the very few PC companies to have overseas procurement and outsourcing plans for Asia. He was interested in what I had to offer. I proposed to him that we could be their quality inspection unit and inspect IBM’s suppliers in Singapore. IBM’s staff could then be freed to do other work and reduce the company’s costs of employment.
I didn’t hear from him for months. That’s ok with me. Marketing is about delivering and implanting an idea. Every idea takes off because there’s a right place, right time, right person with vision, and the right person who dares to imagine and believe in you. I always tell my marketing staff to ‘sell the idea first and deploy the bait. Wait for them to bite.’
Then it happened. IBM called me. They wanted AMREP on board. That was my first big breakthrough.
Sharon: That’s amazing! What happened next?
Derrick: Well once the ball gets rolling there’s no way of stopping it. We had USA and European companies phoning and asking to know more about us. I expanded my team. International procurement was taking off and electronics manufacturing was being outsourced to other countries in Asia – Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong. I set up offices in all these countries. In 1994, the NAFTA agreement was signed by the USA, Canada and Mexico. I took AMREP to Mexico and planted our flag there.
In 1997 China started to open its doors. I went to Shenzhen and put another AMREP flag there. By 1998 it was fully in operation and now it is one of our biggest operations centres.
We became a global network servicing the best industry leaders in advanced product manufacturing.
Sharon: Nowadays there are so many quality management companies. What sets you apart?
The quality companies you see are into product inspections. They tell you whether something is good or bad. That’s not AMREP. We are in the business of supplier quality management that is an intrinsic part of supplier relationship management. We collaborate with our customers and suppliers in mitigating risks through quality problems resolution at the source.
Our success is based on creative, imaginative technical supplier quality management approaches, operatives, systems and methods. We award employee innovation and give them ownership of our company. Evolving concepts and ideas are everything in making procurement, supplier management and outsourcing better. Customers are everything. Like Steve Jobs, we believe that success comes from providing customers with excellent user experiences and a product or service that actually meets their needs.