Western Digital’s factory in Batu Kawan, Penang has made it to the community of world-leading companies that have succeeded in the adaptation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) at scale.
The company applied technology innovations such as artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, advanced analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – to achieve transformational change at its facility in Batu Kawan. This includes automating production and logistics to deliver 32 per cent factory cost improvement, reducing product inventory and order lead time by 50 per cent.
“It took us 3 and a half years to get to this point in our adoption and integration of the cutting-edge technologies of 4IR including virtual audits, self-assessments, and a lot of innovative change and design,” says KL Bock, Senior Vice President Global Flash Backend Operations, at Western Digital Batu Kawan, Penang.
“We have also implemented a ‘lights-out’ work environment in some areas, where there are no lights, and thus no humans working on the floor as part of this project , where robots move and work completely independently,” he adds.
Beyond technology, workforce development is another key focus area for the Western Digital Batu Kawan factory. Even though the use of robotics is extensive this does not mean that people are not needed. The site rolled out a comprehensive IIOT Academy program to educate and nurture its talents to cultivate a new way of thinking with the adoption of 4IR technologies. The IIOT Academy program includes strategic partnerships with local universities and international platforms to upskill employees at all levels.
The GLN also lists sustainability as one of its key criteria. Western Digital is committed to its sustainability efforts, and this presents a great opportunity to collaborate with WEF on this new frontier.
“Increased global concern for environmental impact has made sustainability a must-have to maintain business viability,” says Francisco Betti, Head of Shaping the Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains, World Economic Forum.
“The selected Sustainability Lighthouses make it clear that by realising the potential of 4IR technologies in manufacturing, companies can unlock new levels of sustainability in their operations and explore a win-win solution: greater operational competitiveness while simultaneously making commitments to environmental stewardship, leading in a cleaner, more sustainable future as a result,” he further adds.
Lighthouses apply 4IR technologies to maximise efficiency and competitiveness at scale, transform business models and drive economic growth, while augmenting the workforce, protecting the environment and contributing to a learning journey for all-sized manufacturers across all geographies and industries.
Arham Abdul Rahman, CEO of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), says, “Western Digital’s operations in Batu Kawan, Penang has brought significant benefits to local players by resetting the benchmark of operational, financial and sustainability levels.
“This project will be a precursor and example to the rest of the industry in addressing sustainability and growth in intense global competition. This revolution is in line with Malaysia’s National Investment Aspirations as well as the Twelfth Malaysian Plan (12MP) initiatives as Malaysia embarks on economic recovery and reinforces its global supply chain.”
Arham adds, “Western Digital, Batu Kawan (Malaysia), as the first Lighthouse in the country, will serve as a beacon for local industry players to improve their operations by effectively implementing 4IR technologies.