Keith Toh: Engineering Success in Laboratory Construction

Keith Toh: Engineering Success in Laboratory Construction | The Enterprise World

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

This quote by John C. Maxwell underscores the critical role of business leaders in steering their organizations toward success and innovation. They should not only possess a clear vision for the future but also embody the determination and resilience needed to turn that vision into reality. The ability to navigate through challenges, inspire their teams, and foster a culture of excellence sets them apart. In the evolving business landscape, these leaders are indispensable, driving growth, inspiring innovation, and ensuring the longevity and prosperity of their enterprises.

A good example of such leadership is Keith Toh WeiChuan, the Principal Director at i-Lab Engineering Pte. Ltd. With his seasoned expertise in project management and commitment to client collaboration, Keith has been instrumental in propelling i-Lab to the forefront of its industry. Under his guidance, i-Lab  has specialized in delivering comprehensive solutions encompassing the design, execution, and commissioning of laboratory-related construction projects. His dedication to excellence and ability to lead a team of skilled professionals in efficiently delivering projects have solidified i-Lab’s position as a market leader. Keith’s story is a testament to the impact of visionary leadership in achieving business excellence and innovation.

Pioneering Specialized Construction

Keith Toh embarked on a journey driven by a mission to address the unmet demands in life science and pharmaceutical construction. Departing from his previous venture, he recognized a gap in the market where specialized control environment facilities were scarce, particularly in Singapore. Unlike conventional construction firms, Keith’s vision focused solely on catering to the intricate needs of industries like pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and lifetime sciences.

Navigating through the challenges of the construction sector, Keith faced a stark reality—a lack of local talent willing to join the industry. In a nation known for its financial and research prowess, the allure of construction work was fading among Singaporeans. This posed a significant hurdle in sourcing skilled professionals, especially for a specialized field like theirs. Additionally, retaining knowledge became paramount; expertise in their domain couldn’t be readily replaced or replicated. Despite persistent challenges, i-Lab continued to evolve, adapting to market demands while fine-tuning its strategies. 

Leadership Philosophy

Keith Toh’s leadership philosophy revolves around fostering a cohesive team dynamic within a hierarchical structure. Despite organizational ranks, the emphasis is on collective effort towards task completion, aligning with the company’s mission statement. This approach ensures that individual contributions serve the greater organizational goals, prioritizing customer satisfaction over personal achievements.

Communication forms a cornerstone of Keith Toh’s leadership style, extending beyond client needs to encompass the aspirations of his team members. By providing a clear career path and avenues for professional development, he fosters a sense of belonging and longevity within the company. Since its inception in 2006 with a small team, i-Lab has retained its core members, a testament to Keith’s commitment to nurturing talent and fostering a legacy of knowledge transfer.

By understanding customer requirements and employee aspirations, Keith Toh creates a mutually beneficial environment where success is shared and sustained. This approach ensures client satisfaction and cultivates a motivated and loyal workforce, driving the company towards continual growth and success.

Precision Engineering

Since its inception in 2006, i-Lab has distinguished itself as a leader in the specialized field of laboratory construction in Singapore. The company prides itself on its commitment to meeting each project’s unique needs and stringent standards. “Focus and Deliver” is its mission statement, encapsulating its dedication to project success amid varying requirements, functionalities, and natures.

i-Lab sets a high benchmark for quality and craftsmanship, aiming to deliver excellence beyond the norms of conventional projects. Its success is driven by a dedicated and skilled workforce augmented by the expertise of its international partners. This synergy enables i-Lab to manage and complete projects within the allocated time, budget, and quality standards. Notably, the company excels in executing fast-track projects, demonstrating proficiency in design comprehension, testing, commissioning, and adherence to international standards. (Key Notable Reference)

The company’s noteworthy achievements caught the attention of Schneider Electric in 2010, leading to a collaboration that help Schneider expansion into the Life Science sector. This partnership, lasting three years, provided i-Lab with invaluable exposure to diverse fields such as Building Management Systems (BMS), Security Systems, and IT Infrastructure. Moreover, the experience was enriched by in-house training focused on the Customer Project Process, enhancing the company’s approach to project execution and customer service. This phase of growth further solidified i-Lab’s reputation as a systematic and dynamic partner in the industry.

Specialized Construction Services

i-Lab specializes in construction management, catering primarily to the pharmaceutical, life sciences, and healthcare industries. The company’s expertise extends to the construction of various laboratories, ranging from GMP facilities to vivariums, operating theaters, and biosafety level 1 to level 3 facilities. Initially focused on architectural construction, the company has expanded its capabilities to encompass electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire systems, HVAC, and more, ensuring comprehensive project management and integration. With a strong emphasis on project management, i-Lab prioritizes focused team allocation to optimize project delivery, ensuring each project meets commissioning demands and requirements with precision and efficiency.

Sustaining Excellence

i-Lab differentiates itself from competitors through a steadfast commitment to integrity and quality, refusing to compromise on these core values to win bids. Unlike others who might lower prices or sacrifice quality to secure contracts, i-Lab maintains its standards, ensuring it does not engage in practices that undermine its reputation as a leading laboratory contractor. This principle has allowed the company to sustain and enhance its status in the market. It clearly distinguishes itself from other bidders who may offer unsustainably low prices, only to  Compensate with quality work.

Keys to Success

i-Lab’s success can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, the cohesive teamwork within the company, where collective effort ensures successful project completion despite lacking experience in certain areas. Additionally, the company’s drive and commitment to excellence are evident through the cultivation of leadership tiers, where upper-tier leaders serve as exemplary figures for those below them. Central to its success is the company’s culture, emphasizing a familial atmosphere and eschewing workplace politics. This ethical approach fosters a harmonious working environment and resonates positively with clients, contributing to the company’s track record of success in project delivery.

Leadership Journey

Keith’s leadership journey at i-Lab is a testament to the pivotal role of teamwork and dedication in navigating the company’s success. Acknowledging his staff as the cornerstone of i-Lab’s achievements, Keith Toh has always prioritized their well-being and professional development. His career began over two decades ago, in 2001, with a significant project laying the foundation for his focus on laboratory construction. His venture into entrepreneurship started with a brief stint at an iconic company, followed by establishing his own business between 2004 and 2006, leading to the inception of i-Lab in 2006.

The journey took a notable turn when i-Lab was acquired by Schneider in 2011, only for Keith to reclaim independence for the company in 2014. The resilience and adaptability of Keith Toh and his team were particularly evident during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. With a background in mechanical engineering and hands-on experience from the ground up, Keith has embodied the leadership qualities of unity and perseverance. These principles have fostered a strong internal culture and enabled i-Lab to consistently meet client expectations, even in the most demanding projects, cementing its reputation over an 18-year journey marked by cohesiveness, resilience, and excellence.

Navigating Innovation and Stability

Keith Toh balances the pursuit of innovation and calculated risk-taking with the imperative of maintaining stability and profitability within the company. A key challenge lies in venturing into projects pushing local expertise’s boundaries, necessitating a blend of perseverance, determination, and collaborative teamwork to ensure successful outcomes.

When faced with unfamiliar technical requirements, Keith Toh and his team undertake extensive research, tapping into external expertise and leveraging international partnerships to bridge knowledge gaps. Keith’s commitment to meeting customer expectations remains steadfast despite taking on novel ventures, such as constructing the highest containment facility.

From pioneering Singapore’s largest operating theater to building the country’s only Design and Build Biosafety Level 3 facility, a track record of success drives the company’s innovation. This reputation for quality and reliability has been cultivated over time, instilling trust in clients that i-Lab will deliver projects on time, within budget, and to the required standards.

Keith Toh prioritizes ongoing training and international exposure for his team to sustain this momentum, fostering a culture of learning and knowledge exchange. Regular communication with counterparts in the United States ensures alignment with global best practices, facilitating the integration of cutting-edge techniques and technologies into their projects.

Streamlining through Technology

Keith Toh understands that while the construction industry often sticks to tried-and-tested methods, introducing technology can really shake things up for the better. In Singapore, the Building Construction Authority’s efforts have pushed the use of tech tools, especially Building Information Modeling (BIM). This tool helps Keith’s i-Lab team work more precisely and makes it easier to keep up with building maintenance after construction. Moving away from paper records to using software has made keeping track of maintenance work much simpler and more reliable. These tech upgrades improve projects’ efficiency, make things clearer and more open for everyone involved, and ensure clients are happy with the results.

Pursuing Strategic Growth

Keith Toh highlights a pivotal moment of being acquired by Schneider  Electric, a Global 500 company, for a duration of three years. This period brought invaluable learning experiences, significantly enhancing operational systems and communication protocols. Despite the efforts to align with the parent company’s structure, a lack of synergy prompted the decision to regain independence. Now, the focus is on seeking synergy with an international platform, with aspirations to expand into Southeast Asia—a long-standing ambition for the company. 

Post-Pandemic Success

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, i-Lab emerged as a trusted contractor recognized for its capability to deliver turnkey projects within constrained timeframes both from Public and Private Sectors. Transitioning to a main contractor role, the company has adeptly managed projects from a comprehensive, turnkey perspective rather than a singular focus. On the expansion front, this year marks a pivotal moment with the undertaking of more challenging projects, especially those initiated by the government. 

Another significant factor contributing to i-Lab’s competitive edge is its workforce’s loyalty and longevity which is critical for retaining knowledge . Boasting some of the longest-serving staff in the sector, the company prides itself on creating an environment where employees feel valued and choose to remain for extended periods. This longevity has fostered a sense of family and belonging and allowed for the accumulation and retention of invaluable expertise and knowledge over its 18 years of operation. 

Nurturing Talent

Keith Toh emphasizes a strategic approach to talent development within i-Lab, leveraging a tiered leadership structure to personally identify and cultivate potential leaders from various company levels. He champions the philosophy that progression for oneself and those in subordinate positions is crucial for personal and corporate growth. Acknowledging the stagnation that comes with remaining at the same level, Keith encourages his team to embrace change—whether in mindset, methodology, leadership skills, or responsibilities.

He differentiates between born leaders and those who are trained, highlighting that each has unique perspectives and strengths, particularly in critical decision-making scenarios. Through setting challenging tasks and observing how employees handle pressure, communicate, and deliver under stress, Keith Toh identifies those with leadership potential. Those who exhibit resilience and capability are given opportunities to take on greater responsibilities and to engage in more dynamic roles.

This direct engagement and mentorship method has yielded tangible results, with staff members demonstrating significant growth. They have shown an enhanced ability to lead confidently, manage client and consultant relationships effectively, and exert greater influence in project execution. 


Keith Toh: Engineering Success in Laboratory Construction | The Enterprise World
i-Lab has done a tremendous job in the fitting out of the GMP facility. They are able to provide sound engineering solutions and excellent workmanship! “
GMP project manager
i-Lab is a reliable partner that provides quality and innovative solutions in project delivery. Their project team has shown great professionalism to get the job done.”
Biopharmaceutical Project Lead

“By understanding customer requirements and employee aspirations, Keith creates a mutually beneficial environment where success is shared and sustained.”

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