The range of equipment in which Nelson Lim deals is cutting-edge, so perhaps it’s little wonder he has been known to organise a celebration when he unveils yet another new and amazing piece of machinery.

In a world where many take for granted that tunnels will be dug and bridges built, and that neither will collapse, it’s perhaps about time someone invited us to appreciate cranes that lift massive structures and guide them millimetre-perfect into their allotted slot, or to admire hydraulic vibrating hammers that cut through tonnes of packed earth like a hot knife through butter. Extraordinary inventions like these that shape and improve our cities deserve to be unveiled at a buffet lunch and to be photographed like the construction celebrities they are. And perhaps it is this human touch, this enjoyment of bringing man and machine together, that is the key to JP Nelson’s success.
“Our main area of focus is to build high-quality, cost-effective machines,” says the ever-enthusiastic Executive Chairman of JP Nelson. “That’s very important.

Nelson Lim, Executive Chairman of JP Nelson
“We want to be solution providers, not just equipment providers.” – Nelson Lim

“We want to be solution providers, not just equipment providers.” – Nelson Lim

However, we also want to impress customers with our professionalism and support. We work with the customer.” Nelson’s not interested in problems, he’s interested in solutions. “That’s our approach,” he agrees. “We want to be solution providers, not just equipment providers.”

When Nelson started in this business 32 years ago, he was dealing in used equipment. He moved on to new equipment and then to manufacturing. The company is now a market leader in providing heavy machinery for engineering, construction, shipyard and shipbuilding, and oil, gas and offshore industries. It leases products, sells new and refurbished machinery, offers trade-ins and conducts auctions. It also provides a maintenance service and, impressively, it does all this around the clock. “We are constantly looking to upgrade our skills and diversify,” says Nelson. “We work with professionals and manufacturers so that we have the latest technologies in construction equipment.”

A typical JP Nelson project is the Singapore Circle Line, the country’s fourth Mass Rapid Transit line. It’s an engineering marvel — a fully underground orbital line linking all radial lines leading into the city. Spanning 33.3 kilometres with 29 stations, it cost $US6.7 billion to deliver — a serious spend in anyone’s books. Contracted companies including Woh Hup, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering and Construction and Hock Lian Seng Infrastructure turned to JP Nelson to hire crawler cranes, hydraulic vibros and generators to facilitate the project.
Nelson loves telling stories like these, but he’s a good listener as well, and he’s always keen to hear his customers’ stories and take their feedback on board. Every construction site comes with its own requirements and complications. A small modification in the machinery used can mean massive savings, and JP Nelson works closely with its customers, paying careful consideration to the unique challenges of each project.

Nelson Lim
“I just happen to be the captain who sails the ship — but everyone has to sail in the same direction as me.” – Nelson Lim

“I just happen to be the captain who sails the ship — but everyone has to sail in the same direction as me.” – Nelson Lim

As part of that service, it also introduces its customers to its principal suppliers, an empowering experience for all parties. Often the customer is taken overseas to observe machinery in action. That experience gives them a fine understanding of what is possible and the confidence and understanding to ask for upgrades or modifications. Suppliers, too, get first-hand insights into what is required for different tasks. They benefit from the hard-won wisdom of people on the ground who are actually working with the machinery, and that way they can constantly improve their product.  It’s a win–win situation.

So JP Nelson is involved in building real bridges as well as bridges of understanding? The executive chairman nods. “I think it’s important that the customer hears the manufacturer and the manufacturer hears the customer,” Nelson says.

“Everyone benefits and that’s what keeps us ahead of our competitors. Customer service is everything. We keep in contact with our customers. We visit trade shows to keep our knowledge up to date. We stay ahead of the industry and constantly strive to improve our product and service.”

The strength of these customer relationships becomes evident when a company such as Dieseko Holland appoints JP Nelson as the exclusive distributor of its ICE generator and hydraulic vibration hammer. BUMA CE CO of South Korea has displayed similar faith, making
JP Nelson its exclusive dealer in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and neighbouring countries.

Further testament to JP Nelson’s success is its string of awards, including most recently a highly prized Singapore Prestige Brand award. JP Nelson customises its approach in every territory it works in. A specific approach is needed for Singapore where the company is acting with some caution due to the current market situation, Nelson explains. It is also expanding into Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand, with plans to invest in Vietnam. Beyond that, it is actively scoping for opportunities in Australia and Japan.

JP Nelson
“I’m always learning,” he says. “I just happen to be the captain who sails the ship — but everyone has to sail in the same direction as me. Along the way, people do hop in and out but as long as the majority stay on board, I believe I’m sailing the right course.”

So after an amazing 25 years at the helm of this award-winning company, what does Nelson believe makes him such a successful leader?

“I’m always learning,” he says. “I just happen to be the captain who sails the ship — but everyone has to sail in the same direction as me. Along the way, people do hop in and out but as long as the majority stay on board, I believe I’m sailing the right course.”

Staying with the sailing metaphor, it’s been said that smooth seas don’t make skilful sailors. As it turns out, Nelson would agree with that. Indeed it’s his calm hand when the ocean of business turns choppy that marks him out as a truly skilled and careful captain.
His first concern, he says, is keeping everyone safe. Economic factors mean there will be rough seas but so far he’s managed to weather every storm without having to retrench people. This is an achievement of which he is justifiably proud. “The backbone of our company is the staff,” Nelson says. “A major reason we are marketplace leaders is down to our good culture. We don’t simply provide our staff with a job, we provide them with a career and everyone has a career path. We constantly train our staff because we believe training is a long-term investment and this training both encourages staff to stay and ensures we want to keep them!”

JP Nelson invests in internal and external training. All the staff come together each month to share their experiences, exchange advice and enjoy some company bonding.

No wonder it’s such a happy ship.