Serving Up Efficiency

Innovative F&B company Grain serves up improved productivity through SBF’s Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative.

Founded in 2014, Singapore F&B start-up Grain is an online business that delivers ready-to-eat meals directly to its customers. The company also offers catering services to corporate and residential clients.

Grains differentiates itself from competitors by working with its own chefs and delivery teams to produce and deliver meal boxes and meal plans. To create menus that are both tasty and wholesome, the company boasts an in-house R&D team that experiments with nutritious ingredients, herbs and spices.

The business has been a hit with both customers and investors; with Grain attracting funding from big industry names in recent years. While the catering segment hit a wall during the pandemic, business has since picked up following the easing of restrictions.

Since 2021, Grain has signed up for two cohorts of SBF’s Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI) to help improve the efficiency of its processes. IHCI is the first programme in Singapore dedicated to equip companies with the tools for a successful Industry 4.0 and workforce transformation by improving workflows, increasing productivity, and redesigning jobs. 

BiZQ speaks with Ms Ena Lee, Grain’s Chief Operating Officer, to get her take on how the company has benefited from participating in IHCI.

BiZQ speaks with Ms Ena Lee, Grain’s Chief Operating Officer, to get her take on how the company has benefited from participating in IHCI.

Grain has two main business units and products. These are the catering business unit where Grain serves buffet catering to both corporate and residential customers, and the ready-to-eat business unit which produces and delivers ready-to-eat meal boxes and meal plans to customers. Our model is to have a central kitchen for catering orders, supported by satellite kitchens around the island for ready-to-eat orders.

What challenges did you face during the pandemic, and how has the business recovered since restrictions have been eased?

Given the outbreak of COVID-19 globally and in Singapore, the catering business unit of Grain essentially became non-existent for some time. We had to divert all our resources to focus on the B2C (business-to-consumer) market through our ready-to-eat meal boxes, and also diversify our offerings and launch new product lines and concepts. Ever since restrictions were eased as Singapore transits to living with COVID-19 as endemic, we have seen a substantial increase in interest for catering orders, and we’re expecting a gradual return to pre-pandemic sales levels.

Why did you decide to embark on the IHCI?

We started on the IHCI in in the third quarter of 2021 as we wanted to improve our processes and efficiency. The grants we received also made the programme more accessible.

Through IHCI, we were looking to address our inefficient process of packing food in the kitchen, which was time-consuming and manual in nature. Around 10 staff were involved in the programme, including Grain’s full leadership team. We all had a very good experience, and the team enjoyed weekly check-ins from the IHCI team.

What solutions or processes did you adopt following the IHCI?

One solution we adopted was Tulip, a user-friendly application that improved the productivity of our operations. The application helped digitalise our shopfloor processes by allowing our kitchen operators to use tablets to identify and digitally capture assigned tasks process start and end times. This solution helps to overcome the problem of limited visibility on operator activity, as the data on daily productivity was not captured previously. We are still considering the option of using Tulip in the long run.

Apart from Tulip, we had some good takeaways and sharing from our IHCI team, which brought about changes in our mindset. One good example was a chart showing shared ingredients across dishes which would then determine which dishes should be plated in order of efficiency. In other words, we should not be taking shared ingredients in and out of ovens and warmers to plate if all common dishes can be plated at once.

How has your i4.0 journey benefited from your IHCI experience?

How has your i4.0 journey benefited from your IIHCI was a good introduction to the potential of forward-looking solutions and the power of data.

What are your company’s future plans for digital transformation?

We intend to continue introducing technological advancements to the business and to continue tracking data to improve processes.

The Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI) – Come Join Us!
Jointly developed by SBF and WSG, the IHCI Enabler Programme helps your business implement and scale i4.0 solutions and establish human capital roadmaps.

Participating companies can expect to reap multiple benefits by improving workflows, lowering operational costs, increasing profitability, and redesigning job roles to upskill their workers.

To find out more and to register your interest, please visit Upon receiving your interest form, we will arrange a site visit to your shopfloor/facility for a complimentary consultation with our appointed partners from McKinsey and EY.

You may also wish to access our self-help portal for an array of complimentary i4.0 and human capital guides via