The Western Digital (WD) facility in Batu Kawan, Penang just got admitted into the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This is a great achievement for Malaysia’s industrial sector and even the Chief Minister of Penang Chow Kon Yeow congratulated WD for this accomplishment.
What is the ‘Global Lighthouse Network’?
A ‘Lighthouse’ is a production site that is a setting a high bar for the adoption and integration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. These technologies are quite cutting-edge in today’s standards and include things like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, big data, and 3D printing. If a company is a world leader in utilising these 4IR technologies, then they can go through the application process to become a Lighthouse. The Batu Kawan facility has exceeded the requirements and is now part of the network.
There are currently only 90 Lighthouses in the world. Penang’s WD facility was admitted mostly because of its ‘lights out’ automation process. WD uses both analytics and AI solutions to be able to run ‘lights out’, meaning there does not have to be anyone in the facility for it to run. This requires the automation of every single step of the process, which would lead to a huge jump in productivity and a cut in waste.
Why does this matter?
A Malaysian facility getting admitted into this network is a big deal because the country is now one step closer to becoming a high-tech nation. Especially with the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP) in progress, having this beacon will hopefully inspire other Malaysian firms to do better in terms of productivity and sustainability.
“We were successful with the automation of production and logistics to deliver 32 percent factory cost improvement, reducing product inventory and order lead time by 50 per cent as well as 360 percent increase in labour productivity,” said Mr Viswanath Ramaswamy, VP of Global Flash Back-End Operations & SDSM Site General Manager, Western Digital.
The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) has also said that there are more Malaysian firms in the process of becoming a Lighthouse in the future. They plan to stimulate the manufacturing sector and contribute 5.7% GDP per annum for Malaysia.
This latest development is in line with Penang State Government’s Penang State Government’s Penang 2030 vision, which encourage more industries to adopt 4IR technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and big data.
GLN is a network of like-minded firms and leaders, so their role in helping factories like the one in Batu Kawan involves educating them about these new technologies and helping them deploy new solutions. Going through the application process would be similar to going through an audit, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of your facility and how you can improve. Once you have undergone the process to become a Lighthouse, you can then educate and inspire other facilities in the country, spreading the benefits of 4IR technologies.
Stated in a post by the WEF, “The goal of the Global Lighthouse Network is to share and learn from best practices, support new partnerships and help other manufacturers to deploy technology, adopt sustainable solutions and transform their workforces at pace and scale.”