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I’m proud of this company: Robert Yap

Family is everything at YCH Group, a leading supply chain solutions company. The late Yap Chwee Hock started the company in 1955 as a passenger transportation business, roping in his teenage son – now Executive Chairman Dr Robert Yap – to help him at the shipping docks.

From its humble beginnings to the hustle and bustle of the modern age, close working relationships continue to course through the company to this day, with Robert maintaining a close-knit team.

YCH is Singapore’s largest local supply chain solutions company and leading supply chain management partner to numerous brands across Asia–Pacific. And. Despite its size, Robert maintains he runs the business differently to other organisations because every employee is treated like family.

“We take a different approach to business, where every staff member is treated the same and as if they were family,” he says. “We ensure that the values important to us are at the heart of the organisation. It makes it a good journey.”

To Robert, the most important thing in his business is training and people. “It’s vital to honour people’s skills and help them develop – in doing so, you can effectively transform operations and grow as a company,” he says. “You have to invest in the future by investing in your people and we are proud to do so.”

Speaking of investing in the future, the company has developed the LEARN™ ecosystem, the engine behind the facade, created as a knowledge ecosystem designed to stimulate innovation through collaboration while refining the standards for supply chain excellence.

This will help inspire, transform and define new standards for excellence within supply chain management in the Asia–Pacific region, as well as spark interaction and encouraging effective professional partnerships.

Through the ecosystem, YCH synergises various business activities to create a dynamic and vibrant community. The company is looking to build 10 Supply Chain Cities® in ASEAN in the next 5–10 years.

Robert says the company is moving forward – not just as one entity, but by trying to build with other companies as well. “Businesses work only if the supply chain is well connected,” he says. “To do this, you must be forward-thinking. If you’re not and you’re still ‘old school’ in your train of thought and sticking with doing things a particular way, you can’t succeed.”

Speaking to Robert, it’s clear he finds the supply chain domain exciting, and even motivational. “The supply chain connects everything,’ he enthuses.

“It’s planning, sourcing, manufacturing and understanding how everything reaches the consumer; it really does influence everything.

This is what I’m trying to encompass and by building this pool of highly intelligent supply chain professionals, we’ll be able to take this industry to the next level.”

Naturally competitive, Robert always stays one step ahead and strives for excellence and innovative solutions. “I’m not just competing to win for winning’s sake,” he says.

“I want to show the things I’m capable of. I want to show the type of business we have built and push to become even more socially responsible. We like to showcase things no other company has done.”

During his tenure as Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Robert also created an initiative called Smart Growth Connect (SGConnect™), an initiative to tackle rapidly developing growth which Robert explains will “implement modern supply chain solutions to support the consumption needs of rapidly urbanising ASEAN cities”.

Robert describes its intent to help cities expand without the usual growing pains. “Once a city grows it faces challenges,” he explains. “There are things like traffic congestion or pollution.

This incentive will help cities plan for growth and make everything flow better. This is something I feel passionate about because it means the cities can grow without great pain,” he continues. “It means we can move the lower part of the value chain up. It would help people from more disadvantaged backgrounds have a better livelihood.”

While Robert is always striving for excellence and looking ahead to help better his company, he also believes work should be fun and not forced. “Why would I want to retire while I’m still enjoying it?” he asks. “You have to love what you do, otherwise what’s the point? Everyone should feel this way. You’re having fun. You are working on your journey. You are defeating your limits.”

It’s surprising to hear that despite his passion now, Robert was initially reluctant to join the company after seeing how hard his father worked. “Every day I’d see him wake up at 5am, and then he wouldn’t get to sleep until almost midnight,” he recalls. However, his father’s steely dedication, focus and grit eventually showed him hard work pays off.

“He taught me a fantastic work ethic, and I’m so proud to be a part of this company.” As for his leadership style, Robert says he leads without ego, sets realistic targets and keeps the channels of communication with his team open. “I try to talk with my staff,” he says.

“I’m patient and I also set realistic targets. I’m willing to stretch them, but it’s essential that they’re real. “My attitude attracts people who like to see things move forward; I like to see things change the world.

“We want to build something that can sustain my father’s legacy.”

It has been a fulfilling and rewarding journey. As we continue to improve, we want to build something that can sustain my father’s legacy. We work not just for ourselves or the industry, but for the society we serve and the country we operate in.”

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