Malaysia accelerates tech transformation with industry4WRD
Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the way companies around the world work, and Malaysia-based firms are taking advantage of government initiatives that are positioning them on the leading edge of the global manufacturing sector.
Extensive government support means that businesses with operations in Malaysia—both domestic and foreign—can integrate the latest technologies, from cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) to the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and machine learning.
A new generation of smart factories will operate more safely and efficiently—and be kinder to the environment—thanks to enhanced automation and customer service, a nimbler supply chain and clearer visibility across the organization, inevitably improving business outcomes.
This is the goal of Malaysia’s National Policy on Industry 4.0 blueprint, better known as Industry4WRD. Unveiled in late 2018, today it is powering the digital transformation of the country’s manufacturing sector and connected services by bringing together people, processes and technology.
This vision for Malaysia’s manufacturing future is a collaboration between government, academia and industry, with the four parallel aims of driving growth in manufacturing GDP, increasing national productivity, creating skilled employment opportunities and lifting the nation’s innovation capabilities and competitiveness. The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) is leading the initiative and has worked with dozens of companies to optimize their Industry 4.0 transformations.
A key element is the Industry4WRD Intervention Fund, which disburses grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing and related sectors to enable them to embrace Industry 4.0 and support the “shift factors” of processes, people and technology. This assistance is improving productivity and efficiency and accelerating business growth through adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies and processes.
In December 2022, MIDA and the Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology Centre (CREST) signed a MoU with Dassault Systèmes Singapore on the creation of a steering committee to support Malaysia’s SMEs in their transformation to Industry 4.0 and to step up cloud-based collaboration and implementation of new technologies.
Industry4WRD allows medical device manufacturer to thrive
Comcorde Medical Sdn. Bhd. was established in 1999, and business boomed for the Kuala Lumpur-based company. Demand was so strong for the firm’s advanced medical equipment components that it soon ran into an unexpected problem: keeping up with soaring orders.
“We saw a significant increase in demand from around 2017, but our production output was not in line with our capacity,” says Managing Director Wong Wan Kit. “It was then we realized that our planning and management were not getting the right information to optimize production, and too many man-hours were being spent collecting data—a process that could be automated.”
To make the needed leap forward, Comcorde Medical enthusiastically embraced the government’s Industry4WRD initiative.
“The program helped us to identify the company’s standing before we embarked on upgrading to 4.0, which is much more than just automation,” Wong emphasizes. “Importantly, the readiness report that is part of 4WRD helped us to identify our strengths and weaknesses, enabling us to make improvements across the company.”
Individual changes, such as automating the operation of injection molding machines or automatically logging critical quality-control data, may appear minor, but taken together, they have a significant impact, Wong says.
Equally important, he says, was the financial support of the 4WRD Intervention Fund, which provided a 70% matching grant for upgrades to equipment and facilities.
Better data has given Comcorde Medical “a clearer bird’s-eye view of our process efficiency, which has helped us to better plan and amend current processes,” says Wong.
Troubleshooting is now quicker, saving the company time and money, while an unanticipated side effect is heightened awareness of cybersecurity.
“Shop-floor automation and intelligence has helped us to optimize production, so a minimum of man-hours is allocated to a specific machine,” says Wong. “And we have discovered that these improvements do not always require large amounts of investment, as existing equipment can often be made IOT-capable with the right upgrades.”
MIDA extends a helping hand
MIDA is promoting the government’s Industry4WRD plans and ensuring that any company that asks for advice or assistance receives it in a timely and actionable way.
MIDA and allied agencies have organized industry-specific seminars, workshops, briefings and supplier conferences in Malaysia and abroad, while spearheading campaigns to ensure that companies can successfully exploit technology opportunities. These include introducing Industry 4.0 technologies across supply chains, implementing high-speed broadband, creating centers of excellence for emerging talent and promoting adoption of artificial intelligence for small and medium-sized enterprises. The Malaysian government also offers companies financial support to both assess their readiness and make the transition to Industry 4.0.
“The shift toward increased automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies requires industries to adopt new technologies and processes,” says MIDA CEO Datuk Wira Arham. “SMEs can grow and contribute to the country’s export value by embracing Industry 4.0, and, despite the cost and labor challenges, investing in the latest technology presents an incredible opportunity.”
The Industry4WRD Intervention Fund provides up-front financial assistance to help companies apply new technologies that improve productivity and accelerate growth. To date, 299 SMEs have received funding approval for matching grants totaling RM109.2 million ($24.8 million).
Companies also have access to other support programs, including the Automation Capital Allowance tax incentive that encourages firms to adopt automation and Industry 4.0, while the Digital Investment Office was created in April 2021 to coordinate technology funding across the nation.
“This is Malaysia’s response to the call for digital transformation, and it is facilitating companies embracing Industry 4.0 systematically and comprehensively,” says Arham, “It enables them to be more intelligent and assertive; it makes them driven by people, processes and technology. By leveraging IR4.0 technologies, regional manufacturers can scale their businesses, accelerate growth and future-proof operations in anticipation of continued global uncertainties.”
Malaysia pushes Industry4WRD forward
As Malaysia encourages the growth of a technologically advanced society and manufacturing sector, Industry4WRD is leading the nation into the future.
The adoption of high-tech equipment and processes in the country’s smart factories is raising productivity and improving quality. The IoT, AI-driven quality control and stronger security enhance manufacturing performance, and other advances can predict malfunctions, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency.
The possibilities are endless—and through collaboration with MIDA, so are the opportunities to expand and upscale operations in Malaysia.