The Business Year

Dato’ Palaniappan Joseph

MALAYSIA - Industry

A Critical Frame of Mind

Council Member & Vice Chairman, HRM Committee, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM)


Dato’ Palaniappan Joseph is Managing Director of Satake Technologies Malaysia. Prior to this, he was the Director of Corporate Human Resources & Legal at Panasonic Air-Conditioning Group Malaysia for 18 years, where he worked after a short stint with Motorola Kuala Lumpur after graduation. He holds an MS in quality and productivity improvement and a bachelor of economics (honors) from the National University of Malaysia, in addition to a bachelor of jurisprudence (honors) from University Malaya. He also completed the Global CEO Program at Said Business School, University of Oxford. A recipient of the prestigious Global Human Resources Leadership Award from World HRD Congress, he is also on the Board of Trustees of National Institutes of Biotechnology Malaysia (NIBM), Chairman of the FMM Institute, and a Council Member of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

Changing mindsets will be just as crucial as technology acquisition to successfully implement Industry4WRD.

FMM celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. How do you reflect on its contribution to the growth and modernization of Malaysia’s economy?

FMM remains the voice of Malaysian industries, specifically for manufacturing and related sectors. We have always emphasized fostering a positive relationship with the government and believe we have to be at the forefront with our approach, acting prior to policymaking rather than in reaction to. FMM was established in 1968 with 215 member companies and has since evolved to 10,000 companies that are involved in the manufacturing supply chain. Our core function is to provide support for the overall manufacturing spectrum of the country, be it bigger companies or SMEs, which account for 97% of Malaysian industry. One of our aims is to leverage and move them up a layer in terms of operating efficiency, technology, and market prospects by integrating these firms and working as a common platform to nurture them. We participate actively in almost every ministerial function relevant to the manufacturing community.

What are some of the main challenges and opportunities Malaysian manufacturers will encounter in the adoption of Industry4WRD?

Three factors will play a role. First, it is vital to develop a common and true understanding of what Industry 4.0 means. At present, the general thinking is that it is something extremely sophisticated with factories driven by robots and sensors, but that is only the pinnacle of what it ought to be. The real challenge we are facing is how to migrate from 2.0/3.0 to 4.0. Some manufacturers feel resistance toward this change because they believe that since they have been doing well there is no need to transform, so this is a matter of changing mindsets. Second, we must factor in the economic cost of migration tied to technology acquisition, especially for SMEs that do not have the resources or knowledge. Third, the critical issue is that technology is adopted together with a skilled workforce to understand and expand the technology into a real practical scenario. Therefore, we need more widely available skilled and competent manpower. FMM is working hard to address the first factor of changing mindsets about Industry 4.0. We explain to manufacturers that they do not have to move immediately to a 4.0 scenario, but can migrate in an organic and structured manner. Working on small pilot cases can help the industry and SMEs at large to see the bigger opportunities.

What steps should Malaysia take to develop the right human capital for an economy where Industry 4.0 plays a large role?

The human capital issue has to be seen from a holistic point of view with a mid-term and long-term approach. For the mid-term approach, we have to take practical steps to overhaul our education system. In order to migrate to 4.0, we require at a tertiary level the creation of an ecosystem where the upcoming graduates are equipped with AI-related knowhow as basic and fundamental knowledge rather than a specialized skill. The education methodology in the training structure has to be looked at and the curriculum has to evolve. We need to realign the human capital toward a function that is more value-added and has a raised level of competency and skill. Industry4WRD will transform the community and give opportunities to younger generations to explore.



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