CPTTM: Productivity centre guides small and medium enterprises through changing world

18 November 2016

The Macau Productivity and Technology Transfer Centre (CPTTM) was established in 1996 to support and promote Macao’s then thriving garment industry. Two decades later, with the economy completely transformed, so too has the centre’s mission. The organisation now dedicates its resources to helping the city’s 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adapt and thrive in the modern business world.

As CPTTM celebrates its 20th anniversary, it reflects back upon two decades of accomplishments, including some 11,600 training courses and seminars organised and attended by more than 230,000 students in fields such as enterprise operation and management, information and technology (IT), fashion and creativity and business languages. Class enrollment has risen steadily in the new millennium, from roughly 4,300 in 2001 to more than 20,000 in 2012. In more recent years, attendance has averaged around 17,000. CPTTM is also the authorized centre for a range of public or professional examinations, with the cumulative number of candidates topping 28,900 since the formation of the Professional Examination Resources Unit in 2005.

CPTTM facilitates company seeking internationally recognised certifications (such as ISO standards) and provides full-service advice and support to SMEs. It has also established its own fashion and creative department.

Meant to replace the Centre for Supporting Industrial Development under Macau Economic Services, CPTTM is a non-profit, partial government organisation with the government holding a 60 per cent stake and a consortium of private companies the remaining 40. As a result, “We are more flexible than government departments,” asserts Director-General Shuen Ka-hung. “We work to improve the productivity of a specific firm’s profitability and transfer of technology—tasks which may not be convenient or feasible for a government department.”

The centre also possesses an endowment fund of 24.75 million patacas established by its private investors upon its inception. CPTTM has an annual working budget of approximately 95 million patacas derived from public and private funds as well as revenue generated from tuition and service fees.

CPTTM is comprised of 110 full-time employees staffing three locations: the head office houses administration and examination venues as well as classrooms for enterprise operation & management and business language courses; Cyber-Lab hosts professional IT courses; and the House of Apparel Technology, housed in an industrial building near the border-gate with mainland China, is home to the centre’s fashion program.

SUPPORTING SMEs

The CPTTM’s priority is advancing the growth of SMEs, which collectively employ the largest proportion of the city’s working population and are the most in need of assistance amidst a rapidly changing business environment.

“Most SMEs are family businesses,” asserts Chang Chak Io, senior manager of the External Co-operation and Marketing Department. “It is difficult for them to understand the outside world, and their information is limited. We provide advice on product placement in the market, that is, how to promote and package. More generally, we aim to promote a firm’s image. We act as middlemen between SMEs and buyers or other partners. We also advocate services provided by the government and help firms apply for them, including interest-free loans, guarantees and services for young entrepreneurs and start-ups.”

Chang points to an example of an SME that needed to purchase a bulldozer from a firm in Guangzhou. The transaction demanded cash up-front, which the SME was unable to provide, so the CPTTM found a large trading firm to handle it.

Another example involves a western bakery franchise that was losing money and sought assistance in 2005. “We advised them to centralise production and take semi-finished goods to its various locations,” recalls Chang. “We took them to a training centre jointly operated by the Institute for Tourism Studies and the Macau Polytechnic Institute and introduced them to machinery that mass-produces bread. Now they have their own centralised production and more than 10 locations. The service we provided was free.”

A very popular Macanese brand of cakes and biscuits also sought out the CPTTM. “We helped them initially in designing, packaging and marketing their products,” says Chang. The company’s decision to employ large-scale machinery production has enabled them to become Macao’s market leader in Chinese traditional bakery products. Thousands of tourists purchase their products every day, and they have a prominent outlet in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district.

The environment in which Macao’s SMEs now operate is wholly unrecognisable from two decades ago. Multinational gaming firms comprise the city’s biggest companies, employing tens of thousands of people from all over the world. In order to promote economic diversity, the Special Administrative Region government has encouraged them to conduct business with local SMEs.

UPGRADING THE QUALITY OF MANAGEMENT

Upgrading the quality of management at local firms has been a key part of CPTTM’s agenda, the main goal being to help companies adopt a systematic approach to management and obtain International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification where necessary. The ISO publishes a series of internationally recognised management system standards, and obtaining such certification can give firms a competitive edge when bidding for orders or contracts, especially from international companies.

According to Helena Lei, senior manager for the Standards, Management, Training and Assessment Department, local SMEs are inclined to view international management system standards as out of reach.

“We help them understand that such standards represent best management practices and envision the possibility of incorporating them into daily operations. We strive to support Macao firms in conducting business with larger companies. Over the years, we have served local enterprises from different sectors in obtaining ISO certification, from garment factories and construction companies initially and then increasingly to the service sector, such as property management, security management, exhibition services and catering services.”

ISO management system standards cover a range of areas, including quality management, environmental management, occupational health and safety, food safety, IT service management, information security, event management, etc. Accordingly, CPTTM offers a range of guidance to local companies working towards system implementation and certification. “We provide advisory and technical support services. Firms may not have sufficient knowledge of the process and standards, so we provide information about standards as well as management toolkits on implementing them,” Lei adds.

CPTTM subsidises audit fees for first-time certification, which is valid for three years subject to surveillance and renewal audits.

Since the licensing of more five new companies within the gaming sector in 2001, Macao’s tourism industry has boomed. Last year, the city welcomed 30 million visitors, 50 times its resident population. This, in turn, has led to a boom in the retail sector in which thousands of SMEs operate.

“There is a wide range of retail shops, both in terms of types of products, such as pharmacies, fashion boutiques, and food and beverages outlets, as well as in terms of scale and capacity, from mom-and-pop shops to chain stores,” says Lei. But for these small shops to thrive, they need to improve their management approach which is often facilitated by updated IT.

“As an example, many small shops do not even have proper bookkeeping or accounting in place, or they still rely on manual calculation and paper records. We try to make IT easily accessible by providing them with accounting and POS software at a very low cost while also providing workshops on basic computing, accounting and inventory management; as an enterprise grows, we offer training in customer service, promotion, marketing and brand management to help build and sustain customer loyalty, in logistics to ensure on-time and quality delivery, and in retail operation standards and franchising to manage chain operations.”

Visitors from Mainland China, who account for a significant proportion of retail customers, have their own purchasing and spending propensities. “We have training courses to help retailers understand the cultures of different customer segments. Using Mainlanders as an example, at the language level, the use of words in Cantonese and Mandarin can be quite different. You must identify the characteristics of different market segments and determine how to sell to them. This is relevant not only for brick-and-mortar sales but also online; therefore, our courses on the Internet, Facebook or social media marketing also emphasise the need for a tailored approach when marketing to different groups of target customers.”

“We have a course in applying psychological techniques in the sales pitch: we teach students to recognise a customer’s needs or propensities through the use of words and behaviour. For example, customers purchasing food and pharmaceutical products are probably seeking safety, whereas souvenir and luxury product purchases satisfy social and self-esteem needs. As in all our sales and marketing courses, we emphasise ethical practices which are very important for repeat business.”

Many companies in Macao employ multinational staff who need to communicate with and understand each other. CPTTM offers courses designed to help bridge cultural gaps, including deciphering linguistic differences and honing interpersonal skills in a cross-cultural work environment. Classes on business customs and etiquette are also available for gaming sector employees. A variety of language courses are offered: Mandarin, Portuguese, Cantonese, English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.

One could say that the overarching theme of CPTTM’s language offerings is ‘business-oriented’, that is, providing and assisting with whatever is needed in the workplace or with a particular occupation or profession: for example, Customer Service English for security staff, restaurant servers and hotel receptionists; Japanese/Korean for retail or hospitality staff; Cantonese/Mandarin for non-Chinese employees; Professional English for executives or managers.

THE CYBER-LAB

With information technology an essential component for any modern business, CPTTM’s Cyber-Lab, located in the centre of Macao, is dedicated to improving professional IT knowledge and skills.

Liem Tao, senior manager of the Information Systems and Technology Department, recounts the rapidly increasing demand for IT instruction in the last few years. “The gaming sector needs qualified IT people, but there is a shortage of specialists. Ten years ago, we held around 130 IT-related courses with an enrollment of approximately 2,000; in 2015, it grew to around 195 courses with an approximate enrollment of 3,000—an increase of roughly 50 per cent. Now 77 per cent of our IT courses are public, with the remaining 23 per cent is in-house corporate training.”

Liem asserts “SMEs CEOs usually are middle aged and have little experience in using IT applications. They do not realise that IT could really enhance their business operations. The government has been encouraging gaming operators to turn to local SMEs as vendors, so CPTTM created a webpage for this purpose with procurement information listed for these SMEs.”

“After registering as vendors for these operators, some SMEs may need to learn how to submit quotes and bids online, so CPTTM provides free workshops demonstrating that process. We also offer open-source software for accounting, wage calculation and retail POS. Other vendors may want to improve their service or product quality, such as food safety and quality management, in order to maintain competitiveness; CPTTM offers courses in these areas too.”

CPTTM also provides instruction for middle-aged citizens on basic computer usage, Internet browsing, social media websites, basic Microsoft Office and smartphones so that they can enjoy the rich functionalities of modern communication services or, if they own a business, conduct business more efficiently and effectively.

Cyber-Lab spends great effort in encouraging secondary school students to engage in the field. Each year it hosts three IT-related competitions in the areas of networking, 3D modeling and general IT knowledge to encourage students to pursue IT, discover their potential and develop their passion.

TRAINING MACAO’S FASHIO DESIGNERS

CPTTM’s Creative Fashion and Image Department is located in the heart of what used to be Macao’s textile and garment district on the 10th floor of an industrial building once entirely occupied by textile firms. The department is equipped with fashion-making machinery, including sewing machines, knitting machines, fabric-printing machines, a new laser-cutting machine and classrooms for tutorials in beauty, hairstyling and nail art.

“In 1996, we were serving the garment industry to improve their competitiveness,” says Victoria Alexia Kuan, head of the department. “After the quotas ended in 2005, most of the factories moved to China and Southeast Asia. After that, we focused on developing training in fashion design and image.”

For the past 20 years, the centre has offered training courses in fashion and image design, fashion and accessories making as well as retailing and branding. It has trained almost 500 students focusing in fashion design throughout the years, with roughly 20 graduates of its own diploma in fashion design each year.

“Local designers face the same problems as those in other countries: they need factories willing to produce small batch quantities and they have to deal with administrative work. We support them by organising fashion events, helping with administrative tasks and liaising with production companies.”

“Geographically, we are close to the mainland with access to fabrics and accessories within 24 hours. Our technicians work with designers, helping them create prototypes in our centre here, demonstrating how to cut fabric and use machinery. There are a number of full-time fashion designers in Macao, most of them associated with CPTTM.”

CPTTM partners with the Cultural Affairs Bureau to run the Macao Fashion Gallery in the Sao Lazaro district, open Tuesday to Sunday. “Designers can exhibit their fashion lines for free for three months and sell on consignment while we take a small percentage of sales. Currently we are showing wedding gowns,” says Kuan.

Graduates of CPTTM’s fashion program often go on to work in boutiques and large stores seeking their expertise. Others work in the gaming companies, who have large design departments, on uniforms and entertainment events. (Macao Magazine, by Mark O’Neill, photo by António Sanmarful)

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