Our new €120 million plant in Malaysia starts production in early 2021. Having created 180 new jobs and with an annual capacity of 75,000 tonnes, the new plant at Johor Bahru brings us closer than ever to customers in Asia Pacific. The pandemic may have created unprecedented challenges, but our teams have always kept the project successfully on track.
Two years ago, we made a commitment to bring our high quality solutions closer to our customers in the Asia Pacific region by building a new €120 million plant at Johor Bahru in Malaysia.
Despite the complexity of the pandemic, we are now honouring that commitment.
David Ducarme, our Group Chief Operating Officer, says: “Of course, throughout 2020, we were consistently challenged by the changing circumstances of COVID-19, but we have stuck to our plan to serve our customers in Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Australia.
“We have been able to keep our commitment and build our new site because all the teams have gone the extra mile in extraordinary circumstances to create the solutions needed to overcome every challenge they faced.”
After months of work carried out online between Europe and Asia, we mobilised our teams in October for the second time. Our technical experts flew into Malaysia from countries across Europe, joining specialists from our European equipment suppliers.
Following an enforced fortnight of quarantine, the teams joined forces with local colleagues and regional suppliers to oversee construction, install equipment and ensure the commissioning process ran smoothly while respecting our As Safe As Home protocols and local restrictions.
These teams were soon followed by more than 50 colleagues from production who arrived from Knauf Insulation plants in Europe and the United States to support the early weeks of manufacture in 2021.
This work is now set to pay off for our customers, for our community in Malaysia, for our company and for our colleagues. Johor Bahru is our first plant in Asia Pacific and in addition to serving established customers such as Australia and New Zealand we are also exploring opportunities in new markets such as Malaysia, Singapore and other South-East Asian countries.
It also positions our company for the future. Asia is the fastest growing region for insulation and the development potential is strong. That is why the plant has been built bigger than current demand to maximise growth opportunities with an annual production capacity of 75,000 tonnes.
Economically the plant is important. In addition to 180 new jobs at the site, around 20 more positions will be created in the region. The local economy is expected to benefit from US$40 million a year (around €34 million) in terms of services, jobs and materials, as well as US$10 million (around €8.5 million) for services in other countries.
And for our colleagues? David says: “At Knauf Insulation we relish a challenge. The fact that we have so successfully navigated 2020 is a tribute to the power of our people and our values of challenge.create.care.”
Our new Malaysia plant not only offers an opportunity to supply regional customers with outstanding products, but also provides the chance to export our values of challenge.create.care. across Asia.
How is this being achieved?
First, we started with our most important brand ambassadors — our colleagues in Johor Bahru — who have been supported by a team of specialists from Europe led by Cyrille Lerat, Glass Mineral Wool Technical Director EMEA.
For all our plants, a commitment to continuous improvement or CI — continuously finding innovative ideas to tackle challenges — is critical to our company’s success. The specialist team worked with our new colleagues to establish CI processes in terms of communication, meetings and behaviour; months were invested in establishing work instructions and training senior plant members and we have already introduced a plan to cut waste during start-up next year.
At the heart of every Knauf Insulation plant is a focus on customer-centricity and the commercial imperative of creating premium products for the market. Our new plant brings our high-quality solutions with ECOSE Technology® physically closer to customers. And our state-of-the-art facilities allow us to respond rapidly in terms of product development and customer service.
The safety of our people comes first at Johor Bahru. Nothing is so important that it cannot be done safely. That is why safety procedures such as hazard spotting, ‘Lock Out Tag Out’ and safety inductions are given such emphasis by our teams and trainers. And repeated. And repeated.
There is constant support — through training and videos — for all work instructions whether it is how to start a job or showing how Personal Protection Equipment must be used. “Our will and desire to keep everyone safe is key for our team and understood — we will not accept any deviation from this,” says Cyrille.