Exclusive: How a Malaysian manufacturer is using transformation to go global

Computerworld Malaysia talks to TS Plastics' Vincent Oh on the importance of gaining full 'visibility' from any digital transformation implementation.

By AvantiKumar
Jan. 24, 2017

TS Plastic facility (new)

Image (TSP) - A TS Plastics facility


Some key benefits from digital transformation (DX) initiatives should include real-time visibility and access to information, according to Malaysia-based manufacturer TS Plastics' (TSP's) executive director Vincent Oh speaking to Computerworld Malaysia during a 'rapidfire' interview.

This was later echoed by ERP (enterprise resource planning) specialist Epicor International's executive vice president Sabby Gill, when giving his take of the current climate for the manufacturing sector and how local manufacturers were adopting digitisation.

Originally, Thye San Industries established in 1978 in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, was changed in 1996 to TS Plastics (TSP), which initially focused on PP (Polypropylene) Plastic bags then rapidly entered the OPP (Oriented Polypropylene) market and into the Nylon market in 2001. With its current staff strength of 100, the company has now penetrated the Aluminium Foil market. With a customer base of 300 across different industry sectors, TSP is now modernising and expanding to overseas markets with a DX programme.

TSP Exe Director (new)

Photo - Vincent Oh, Executive Director, TS Plastics (TSP)
Computerworld Malaysia first asked TSP's Vincent Oh (pic above) to talk through some of the pre-project steps.

As a leading supplier to a range of industries including food and beverage, detergents, pharmaceutical and automotive industries, we want to expand our reach beyond Malaysia.

Our business plan includes goals for international expansion, but to achieve these, it is critical that we have full visibility across the various business lines, and ensure we also have a reliable enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in place that can support future growth.

This meant a replacement of our current ERP solution, which had been struggling to support the growth of the business in recent years.

We chose to work with Epicor because of its flexibility and customisable functions. For example, Epicor XL Connect allows us to access real-time data from the ERP system with built-in functions, combine ERP data with non-ERP data and arrange and format this data exactly as we want.

This means we are able to quickly access data that can inform business and operational decisions, without struggling to gather information from different sources. This greatly improves our reporting times both internally and to our customers, and saves time spent gathering reports - making us more efficient and productive. At a glance, we can now quickly see which business lines need more resources, and we are able to make faster and more accurate business decisions based on that information.

What short term and long term business benefits do you hope to realise with this implementation?

With this solution, we are able to streamline business operations, reduce redundant business processes and provide access to real-time data. In doing so, our staff spend less time on mundane tasks so that they can focus on value adding activities that can help grow our business. Having accurate real-time data also helps us to meet our customers' needs much faster, especially when we are expanding our customer base.

In the long term, we hope that this new system can help us to maximise profits, as we are now equipped with greater visibility of our operational processes and costs - useful information which can be used in planning and making important business decisions.

How did you pin down the first steps to implementation?

A tender process including two other ERP vendors was conducted before we selected as our \ provider. The implementation took six months and included training for all departments using the system. The process was made easier with the support from Epicor during the pre, actual and post implementation.

So far, what has been the impact of this step forward? How are you managing the changes?

Changes are necessary for success. It was definitely a shift in mind-set for the staff as they were used to the intensive manual reporting tasks. However, we were able to overcome this challenge by showing our staff exactly how - with the right technology in place - we could free them from such tasks, meaning they now have more time to focus on more valuable, enjoyable, and profitable jobs, as well as providing them with the ability to meet our customers' needs, which significantly contributes to growing our business.

The Epicor ERP system also allows much better collaboration within our workplace. Different departments are now able to connect and collaborate on tasks instead of working in silos - so we have improved overall productivity, communication and responsiveness.

What customisation did you have to do?

The previous ERP system could not keep up with our business plans for expansion and growth. It was outdated and we were not able to access the information we needed to make informed business decisions.

Much of the reason for choosing the Epicor system was the fact it was easy to customise to suit our business processes. The Epicor team also evaluated our challenges and made sure the system would work well for our individual business needs.

What key things would you advise new companies must tackle/put in place, if they are considering a similar move?

Before looking for a new ERP system, it's worth agreeing on your organisation's ERP strategy. Your overall strategy will inform the choice of modules, infrastructure requirements and other elements of your ERP implementation, and should be based on your business objectives. With a clear plan in place, you are more likely to find a solution that fits your needs.

How is this implementation a significant move forward in the company's strategies for the future?

From a business point of view, we are able to plan and manage our resources more efficiently and focus on growing our business. This has had a positive effect on our stakeholders.

With the new ERP system in place, we have a solution that provides full visibility across our business. This gives us a good foundation for our international expansion plans, as we are assured of our ability to support branches outside Malaysia with the same data resources and business processes that we have here. At the same time, the system makes it easy for users in different locations to work together seamlessly, and focus on growing our business across the globe.

So what's the next for step on road to transformation and automation?

We appreciate how the new ERP system is allowing us to automate many our processes while keeping our costs low.  We have already been able to make reductions in the production scheduling processes and redeploy people from mundane tasks to value adding activities, which means greater productivity and efficiency.

Looking forward, we will continue to explore how the ERP system can help us to further automate tasks and also how new technologies can empower our staff to support and expand our business.

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