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Western Digital Corporation accelerates digital transformation in manufacturing industry with the integration of 4IR technologies

Started as a single building operations set-up to cater for growing flash products, the company is now benefiting from the fully, vertically-integrated flash factory.

Boosting productivity and ensuring sustainability in the new age of manufacturing, Western Digital Batu Kawan’s  Senior Vice President of Global Flash Backend Operations, KL Bock led a new technological approach called Lights-Out Smart & Intelligent Manufacturing which allows factories to fully automate with minimum human presence or touchpoints on-site.

For this, KL Bock was awarded Executive of the Year – Computer Hardware for raising awareness of the application of 4IR technology innovations at the recently-concluded Singapore Business Review’s Malaysia Management Excellence Awards 2021. The award program recognises business leaders, innovators, and teams whose initiatives have brought tangible business gains for the success of their companies.

Bock played a pivotal role in the transfer of technology from the US, construction and expansion of the Shanghai operations (second factory in China), and in the start-up and growth of operations in Penang, Malaysia. 

Western Digital applied the technology innovations it enables for customers each day – artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things – to achieve transformational change at its facility in Batu Kawan, Penang, Malaysia. 

As he led the operations in Penang, he saw challenges such as quality problems and cost inefficiency out of human dependency in manufacturing as factories tripled up in volume and doubled in footprint. In addition, the site faced cost pressures with a need to improve factory costs and gross margins. On top of this, there was also a need to introduce new products quickly in a demanding marketplace, whilst operating in a complex, high-volume, high-mix environment.

With his innovative thinking, he designed an automation concept by working closely and collaborating with the internal team and solution providers in the industry. His end goal was to expand beyond the traditional manufacturing concept, developing a lights-out smart and intelligent manufacturing process. His active participation also enabled the site team to develop their skill set in advanced manufacturing techniques. 

He also architected a comprehensive IIOT Academy development plan with the introduction of a virtual factory concept between Penang and Shanghai operations,  providing technical leadership to embrace 4IR at an accelerated pace. However, Bock emphasised that technology advancement does not automatically replace existing jobs. Upskilling and reskilling are key for manufacturers to equip their workforce with skills to enhance their capability and productivity. This also required the redesign of existing training programs and introduction of new courses to cater for advanced manufacturing needs. 

With Bock’s exemplary leadership, Western Digital Batu Kawan was able to deliver breakthrough results by transforming the manufacturing landscape and fulfilling customer needs. Recently, their factory at Batu Kawan Industrial Park in Penang has been recognised as the latest entrant to the World Economic Forum’s  Global Lighthouse Network, the first company to receive this distinction in Malaysia out of the 90 total sites within the Lighthouse Network.  The Global Lighthouse Network is a community of world-leading companies that have succeeded in the adoption of 4IR technologies at scale. 

The lighthouse also earned a place in the Malaysia Book of Records for this achievement. The site hopes to be a beacon of light to other industries to continue investing in 4IR technologies to see a transformation in the industrial landscape.

Western Digital is happy to play an anchor role to further propel the Lighthouse program, to other manufacturing firms in Malaysia. Bock is happy to help in accelerating 4IR to a scalable and impactful stage.

For more information on Western Digital, please visit: https://www.westerndigital.com/en-ap 

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