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Automating for the Future: HEXA’s Journey of Digitalising Their Food Manufacturing Process

 

New digital industrial technologies have been instrumental in transforming the way goods are produced, enabling processes to be faster, more efficient and costeffective. The Industry 4.0 Policy announced by the Malaysian Government in October 2018 was to encourage players in the manufacturing sector, particularly SMEs, to evolve and leverage new technology, digitalisation and e-commerce platforms to create high value in their businesses.

Further to this, the Government launched the Industry4WRD Intervention Fund (IF), through the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) in 2019. The fund provides much needed financial support for SMEs to embrace Industry 4.0. The accessibility of the fund has provided a valuable opportunity for home-grown companies like HEXA to prioritise the implementation of their digitalisation journey.

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HEXA is a food manufacturing company originating in Shah Alam, Selangor. The company is producing essential food products such as herbs, spices, seasonings, ground mix spices and curry powder. Since 2008, the company has transformed its business to meet new challenges of the evolving global manufacturing landscape in tandem with new technologies. HEXA now achieves double-digit growth annually, while remaining self-funded.

The HEXA IoT department was set up in 2018, designed to assist the company to meet the needs of industry and further its goals for global expansion. The operational processes in the HEXA IoT department are digitalised using an in-house software called PANDORA.

This software connects, controls and monitors HEXA’s equipment and work processes, where else the human-machine interface (HMI) software ensures better monitoring and production yields. However, this was only the beginning.

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Despite the current challenging economic climate brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, HEXA realises that to sustain its business, the company had to seriously consider digitalisation and advanced automation to improve efficiency and minimise human error.

HEXA participated in the government-funded Readiness Assessment (RA) programme in August 2019 to be eligible for the Industry4WRD incentive.

Auditors from SIRIM visited HEXA to assess the company’s capabilities and readiness to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies and processes, determine gap areas, and recommend improvements. Besides SIRIM, other certified assessing bodies for the programme include the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC), MIMOS Berhad and the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics & IoT Institute (MARii).

Upon receiving the official approval in November 2019, HEXA submitted an Intervention Fund (IF) proposal to MIDA based on the RA recommendations. This grant, together with the Government’s comprehensive assistance provided to SMEs, has enabled HEXA to upgrade its machinery, technology and human resources.

HEXA is now in the midst of active digitalisation, business automation and creating a highly-skilled workforce to sustain its operations. With computers, automation and digitally-connected machines, the company will be able to be more efficient, reduce wastage and optimise its food manufacturing processes.

This upgrade will also enable HEXA to efficiently monitor and analyse key data and calculate overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). This is crucial as a small 1 per cent waste reduction can result in at least 4 per cent net profit for the company.

Being in the food business, it is also a priority for HEXA to comply with the food safety requirements and regulations, nationally and internationally. Creating an effective and secure food safety management system will help manage, monitor and validate production while abiding on food safety hazards. With reputable certification such as HALAL, HACCP, ISO 22000, HEXA’s products have gained consumer confidence, allowing the company to widen its market reach. HEXA foresees achieving double digit growth, projecting RM18.0 million, an increase of 12.5 per cent revenue for its financial year 2020 from RM16.0 million in 2019.

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Despite the adverse impact on health and the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed as a game changer, particularly for the SMEs in the food processing industry to accelerate the transformation. Food companies should follow HEXA’s footsteps to re-strategise their investments in integrated digital infrastructure to manage current and future disruptions in their operations. Businesses need to step-up and adopt technology-enabled processes and systems in preparation for a more digitalenabled environment in the new normal.

Ultimately, by planning and investing in a skilled workforce, digitalisation in new technology, as well as studying market trends, companies can create long-term value for their stakeholders and the wider economy.

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Last Updated : Wednesday 30th September 2020