By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Many people have the notion that BPO operations in the country are a hotbed of well-compensated young people jostling for a place under the sun, with not much sense of direction. On the contrary, these are serious jobs where Filipino talents are well appreciated, prized, and nurtured towards excellence.
Ruben S. Cu Jr.., business director for commercial and residential solutions Emerson Electric Asia Ltd. ROHQ, runs Emerson’s capable technical support Filipino team that delivers services to Emerson’s global customers. They are at par if not the best as they collaborate with colleagues in other parts of the world to provide the much-needed support for cold chain solutions in the commercial and residential sector.
Emerson is a Fortune 500 company and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Emerson is composed of five primary business segments: Network Power, Process Management, Industrial Automation, Climate Technologies, and Commercial and Residential Solutions (Tools and Storage).
Emerson is where technology and engineering come together to create solutions for the benefit of its customers, driven without compromise for a world in action.
Three years ago, the St. Louie, Missouri headquartered American firm introduced a bold, new vision for the future of Emerson: two complementary platforms to focus its expertise around its core strengths – automation solutions and commercial and residential solutions. As a unified company, Emerson Chairman and CEO David N. Farr said they are seeing that vision come to life and celebrating the strategic wins that is made possible by its repositioning.
Emerson has established in the Philippines one of its major hubs for shared service capabilities with 2,500 people running the global resource center. This center functions as pre-post sales support, life cycle services, general customer care, order management, product design and engineering, back office activities including operations, legal, IT, human resources, finance and supply chain. Its back office and customer focused activities are located at the Manila SM Cyber West Facility.
Cu, who has been with Emerson right after he left Intel several years ago, noted the growth in automation particularly for the cold chain business.
According to Cu, the country’s growing population is driving robust growth in its commercial and residential solutions platforms as he cited the capability of the Fortune 500 company.
“The Philippine market is growing because challenges of moving food to ensure safety and freshness are of paramount importance,” says Cu. Thus, Emerson is positioning its cold chain solutions as they see demand rapidly growing especially for the Philippines with its many islands and making it difficult to transport goods.
Emerson has cold chain technologies that provide solutions from the source to the port or to market, or farm to port to the table.
“We have unique portfolio of technologies that can ensure the food’s freshness all the way to the table,” he adds. It has refrigeration systems, compressors, electronic sensors and controls that can tract temperature all the way from the source from the fisherman to the trucking and even to the ships going to the countries.
In addition, it has transport solutions for the processing side like maintaining the temperature and humidity.
“Our customers are able to track temperatures of food because we support all stages from processing up to the last mile,” he adds.
Their technologies are also available for the food retail sector like the quick service restaurants and even in the small format convenience stores as Emerson provides sensors and controls to ensure reliability of refrigeration systems.
Cu explained that behind every supermarket operation is a complex technology that ensures freshness of food. Emerson’s electronic devices and systems monitor the temperature and set trigger points for intervention so they can respond quickly before a problem occurs.
This is where the role of the Philippines’ back office and focused services activities come into play.
“Here in the Philippines, we have a team that supports global operations. We take care of the refrigeration aspect and we let the retailer focus on selling even as we monitor the temperature level to keep their products safe and fresh,” says Cu.
The service is not just done remotely at its high-tech offices, but they can also troubleshoot offline with their technicians and engineers.
“We have the technology and we work with contractors and installers to help set up the entire systems. Customers just have to subscribe to monitoring solutions,” he adds.
The value that Emerson provides is the efficiency with quick uptime and electricity consumption savings.
“For supermarkets we have compressors and electronic technologies to help manage power cost because right now electricity is a major expense of a cold chain facility,” says Cu. Savings from electricity consumption vary depending on their setup, integration and utilization, but the highest savings they have registered was around 50 percent for a freezer system and 6-7 percent for chillers.
“We have a major QSR player that upgraded a store into our systems and they are seeing improvement in chiller and freezer electricity consumption of close to 8 percent,” says Cu.
In Southeast Asia, he said, marine and fishery products are the most common cold chain solutions. As such, Emerson has solutions for cold storage for tuna and industrial refrigeration systems using their own brands and in collaboration with others.
In the Philippines, the sales division has just started because the local operation has been primarily focused as a resource center or shared service facility.
As such, the sales unit in the country has been supported by southeast Asia sales organization based in Hong Kong, but Cu said that Emerson would like to grow and build its sales division in the Philippines as it anticipates strong demand.
“Philippines offers a big opportunity because we know the movements of technologies in the world amid a growing domestic population,” says Cu as he noted that being an archipelagic country transporting goods needs efficient refrigeration systems.
Their technologies also include cargo solutions as they ensure freshness and safety of food from “farm to table.”
All these are supported by Emerson’s global reach and its 2,500 employees at its HOHQ shared service facility in Manila. These people are key in making their customers refrigeration and cooling systems work at their optimum level.
“Sometimes, in the supermarket customers open chillers and freezers without closing it properly. That is very inefficient and can affect the food inside,” says Cu. This is just one of the examples that Emerson’s technology can monitor and act promptly.
“Now we are seeing some companies expanding their cold chain as the economy grows. With our technologies and solutions, we see opportunities in the food safety and environmental conservation,” he stresses.
“Our solutions are focused on improving lives because that is closer to us all because we all need fresh food and efficiency of the technology.”
Aside from refrigeration systems, Emerson also offers lighting control systems in which customers even from the US are getting technical support from the Philippines. The local unit also develops IT software solutions being a delivery organization.
“We are able to support customers in terms of data analytics so they are able to analyze the systems and provide information based on data that helps our clients make decisions to improve operations in terms of policies and operational management,” he adds.
In the air-conditioning sector, Cu said their systems are geared towards the big formats like skating rinks, buildings, warehouses, among others. But they are also integrating with the internet of things (IOT) where all systems are interconnected.
“We have distributors that bring those technologies and we help the distribution companies so we connect with installers and contractors,” he adds. Emerson also provides training to contractors, bringing them to their offices to show them their facilities.
They have also electronic consumer products such as vacuums and others for industrial applications like power tools, and those used by plumbing contractors that are useful especially during floods.
“With Emerson’s wide range of technology in the cold chain sector, we see an opportunity to offer to customers because we have lots of islands and seafoods being brought to Manila and each of those need stable temperature environment. There are also products coming from abroad so we have those solutions used in transporting produce,” he adds.
As a result, Emerson is experiencing robust growth with cargo solutions in the entire southeast Asia.
Compared to Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, Cu said the Philippines is just a startup. But Cu has emphasized the strong potential given the country’s GDP growth rate, which is a good indicator the economy is on a high growth trajectory.
The target is to grow above the GDP, which is between 6-7 percent. Cu is confident they are able to grow and drive the business because companies will adopt new technologies.
Emerson, one of the pioneers in the BPO sector in the country, has been here for the past 20 years. The total cold chain solutions for global clients only started in the Philippines three years ago although it has been offering solutions for air-conditioning, monitoring, and transport systems long ago. So, there is more room for growth.
Cu is proud of the complete cold chain solutions they offer and for being the leading global solutions provider. Its end to end solution, he said, is the secret for its success.
According to Cu, most of their customers have invested in other systems but when they talked to them, they become new converts. This is because the end to end cold chain system of Emerson from farm to port promotes three core values for their clients — efficiency, environmental conservation, and monitoring.
“Companies cannot afford shutdowns,” says Cu. Thus, they are looking for reliable systems and quick uptime.
As a technical support center, Emerson has nurtured a pool of talent for engineering, IT, finance and marketing.
In fact, the reason Emerson chose to locate their back office here is largely due to the local talents. “Our talents are recognized globally, that is our competitive advantage,” adds Cu, who has been with Emerson for nearly eight years.
Cu, who has been in the engineering side of business all his life, is happy that even as a leader in the Emerson resource center in the Philippines, he has a wider exposure as they provide analytics, IT and even market research to support its global operations.
Directly under him are some 600 commercial and residential solutions team supporting business and customers in North America and Europe. They are overseeing different companies and Cu helps the Manila team collaborate and become part of the integrated global strategies.
“The Manila resource center is a very important component because we have 2,500 people supporting global operations of our customers,” he adds. Global Emerson executives would come to Manila because the talents here are a critical component to this $17 billion technology company.
As a resource hub, the Philippine unit operates 24/7 because the monitoring for cold chains and the refrigeration systems cannot stop. Cu forecasts 5-8 percent growth in talent hiring this year. Emerson has a low single-digit attrition rate as against the industry’s double digit.
“At Emerson, talent is something that is being appreciated for,” adds the engineer noting, “We have mechanical and electrical engineers as well as communications engineers.”
To ensure a steady pool of qualified talents, Emerson has tied up with different universities and offer lots of internal training to students. He also cited the academe for continuing to produce good IT and engineering capabilities. On top of that, these are English-speaking graduates.
Emerson also advocates for STEM track education to supply the kind of graduates particularly for those very specific engineering job posts that they foresee their partners would be in need in the future.
Part of these efforts is a collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce Foundation where they have already 77 scholars in the past five years. These scholars do not just receive free education but also mentorship. Some of them have been absorbed by Emerson.
“We are glad to be able to support some students, who are very appreciative and grateful to Emerson. Their stories are very heartwarming, so we give complete support that sets them up for success making them very loyal and appreciative of the help they got from us,” says Cu. Some of these universities they support are Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Bulacan State University, Rizal Technological University, and Technological Institute of the Philippines.
The support is for the entire journey of the student from a life in the academe until he is hired.
Being part of an integrated global operation, Cu has become part of a participative environment where employees are empowered.
“The structure we built is more participative because we need collaboration and communication. We have to understand business strategies,” says Cu noting that Emerson is also very strong in terms of talent development. They have period review of talents and business directions to ensure their personal aspirations and personal needs are being considered in their strategies.
“Philippine talents are part of the business strategies at the St. Louie, Missouri headquarters. Emerson values our people and support them in their career development,” he concludes.