By Charles F. Moreira, Editor
In our two-part article, CAN MALAYSIA’S GLOVE MAKERS REPLACE MANUAL LABOUR WITH AUTOMATION? in Enterprise Trade Views in April 2021, we mentioned DOEKA Industrial Automation as one of the suppliers of advanced industrial automation equipment to various manufacturing industries in Malaysia, including to rubber condom and gloves manufacturers.
Mr. Daryl Kok, Managing Director of DOEKA Asia Sdn Bhd in Puchong subsequently arranged for an e-mail interview and follow-up virtual face-to-face Zoom session between Enterprise Trade Views and Mr. Alexander Hummel, President of DOEKA Asia to find out more about what DOEKA has done and can do to help manufacturing industries in Malaysia and across Asia to adopt advanced automation in their production facilities up to Industry 4.0 generation before, during and after this COVID-19 pandemic which has seriously impacted and restricted their production.
Mr. Alexander Hummel also is Managing Director of DOEKA Europe GmbH in Weinheim, Germany, which is DOEKA’s headquarters.
Without further ado – the e-mail interview between Enterprise Trade Views (EnterpriseTV) and Mr. Alexander Hummel (DOEKA):-.
EnterpriseTV: DOEKA Industrial Automation’s website says that you were founded in 1966 as a local machine supplier and have now have customers in over 50 countries worldwide, providing automated machines and technical solutions for different kinds of manufacturing industries, and that DOEKA is for example world-wide leading for fully- and semi automatic machines for particular medical products. Can you tell me more about the various industries to which DOEKA provides your automation equipment, technical solutions and technical expertise?
DOEKA: Our main specialization is automation for flexible products, which are for example gloves, condoms or balloons. We are supplying advanced technical solutions for these industries since 1966 with focus on international customers right after our founding. Automation for flexible products need a lot of experience and is very challenging, as they have no fix and stable shape and structure. Furthermore, DOEKA is also specialised with customization of Automation machines in Medical, Automotive, Foods and turn key industries.
EnterpriseTV: Besides the rubber condom and gloves industries, what other industries does DOEKA provide solutions for, and what are the different kinds of industries in the over 50 countries or regions to which DOEKA provides your different advanced automations solutions (like it would be highly unlikely that DOEKA would supply your rubber glove production equipment and solutions to customers in Greenland but equipment and solutions more relevant to industries there) ?
DOEKA: As our automation experience is highly demanded, nowadays especially in South East Asia and China, we have gained more customers in other industries and have supplied for example assembly lines for office chairs or carbon electrodes handling and tooling equipment.
EnterpriseTV: Can you provide descriptions of what some of your latest and most advanced industrial automation equipment, including Industry 4.0-ready equipment do within their respective points/stations within the production process from end to end?
DOEKA: Our solutions always have one major goal: Minimizing the total costs for our customer for the particular process. The major part is hereby the replacement of operators by our customized equipment, but that’s only one step in the right direction. With the implementation of more energy efficient solutions, intelligent data processing technologies and fully linked interactive components, we can reach our goal to minimize the process costs for their best benefit.
EnterpriseTV: With regards DOEKA Asia:- Is DOEKA Asia DOEKA’s only subsidiary outside of Weinheim, Germany?
DOEKA: Yes, DOEKA has two locations, Weinheim and Puchong. Both locations are always in close contact and exchange to guarantee the advanced German technology and premium quality standard of DOEKA.
EnterpriseTV: Which countries in Asia does DOEKA Asia supply advanced automation and solutions to?
DOEKA: The equipment are supplied to Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, India, Vietnam and Indonesia.
EnterpriseTV: What kinds of industries in Asia does DOEKA Asia supply advanced automation and solutions to?
DOEKA: We have more and more expanded our industries range. We are now covering almost all production or processing industries in South East Asia.
EnterpriseTV: More specifically, in what countries in Asia does DOEKA Asia provide your rubber medical devices (gloves and condoms) advanced automation and solutions to, and roughly what percentage of your customers in Asia do the rubber glove and condom industries comprise?
DOEKA: Around 50% of our customers are from the rubber and gloves industries. The other 50% are from very different industries in Asia.
EnterpriseTV: Awareness, interest, readiness and uptake of advanced automation equipment and solutions in Malaysia and across Asia:- At what industrial automation generation does DOEKA regard most of Malaysia’s and Asia’s medical glove and condom makers are currently at – i.e. Industry 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0?
DOEKA: Generally, the condom industry has always been ahead of the glove industry regarding the use of automation and intelligent industry solutions. I would say that most of the condom makers are now moving from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0. Whereas, I still see most of medical glove makers are still stuck at Industry 2.0, but of course there are well known exceptions.
For both industries, I see the unavoidable need for fast technical enhancements. Companies can only survive the tough competition if they minimize the production costs with latest Industry 4.0 technologies. The ones who are missing the progress will be on the lose side. The best example brings the current COVID 19 crisis: Fully automated machines and industrial robots cannot get COVID infections and minimize the risk of production downtimes due to COVID. Companies can fully operate their automated factories with a very low number staff, meaning a very significant reduction of infection risks with COVID 19 or other diseases.
EnterpriseTV: What are the levels of awareness, interest, readiness and willingness to adopt more advanced generations of automation amongst Malaysian and Asian medical glove and condom manufacturers and in which countries across Asia are these manufacturers most willing to adopt more advanced forms of automation and where is willingness the least – and what does DOEKA see are their reasons for such different levels of willingness?
What increase in interest in DOEKA’s advanced automation equipment and solutions has DOEKA Asia received from Malaysian and Asian medical gloves and condom manufacturers, as well as manufacturers in other industries since the COVID-19 crisis hit Malaysia and Asia in 2020?
Do you see the above interest continuing to grow, sustaining or declining after the pandemic eventually ends (hopefully), with manufacturers preferring to remain with or revert to their reliance on manual labour?
DOEKA: For the medical gloves industry, these levels did rise within the years before the COVID 19 outbreak. But too slow, in my opinion. Time was lost with efforts to bypass the inevitable need of automation. The COVID 19 outbreak was first a step back for their automation process. With full order books and high margins, the companies have no time and economical need to invest into automation solutions. But finally the outbreak will boost the automation process. On one hand the companies have gained the financial resources needed to invest into new technologies. On the other hand, the high COVID 19 infections within the glove factories and the resulting factory closures has made them finally clear that the number of workers must be minimized.
EnterpriseTV: Malaysian and other Asian medical device manufacturers are well known to be heavily reliant on manual workers, especially cheap migrant labour, especially in the end-of-line (walleting, boxing, cartoning and warehousing) parts of the production process as is pretty evident in various You Tube videos and to a lesser extent in quality control, whilst the actual production from former cleaning, dipping, drying, vulcanisation, beading and to some extent stripping off the formers is already highly automated. Besides glove boxing and condom picking and packing equipment and solutions, what other automation equipment and solutions does DOEKA have especially for the manual-intensive end-of-line processes, as well as some of the manual-intensive quality control processes (besides your automated condom burst test machine on your website)?
Last June, we have introduced our latest Fully-automated Examination Glove Packaging Machine. With this equipment, we automate the most labour intensive part of the examination glove production. The gloves are fully-automatically picked, handled, stacked and inserted into boxes, as well as checked by a vision system.
The demand for the machine is immense, as we can see from the numerous inquiries, especially as the machine can process nitrile gloves too. The first machines are running at a customer in Malaysia and more units are ordered by another customer. The customers save costs with every exam glove packed, as well as they reduce the risks of a virus spreading with every fully automatic machine in operation.
EnterpriseTV: What size or production capacity (such as millions or billions of pieces of gloves or condoms per annum) does DOEKA regard makes it cost-effective for a production plant to implement DOEKA’s advanced automation equipment and solutions instead of continuing with their reliance on large numbers of manual labour?
DOEKA: When a technical process is automated, it is always a cost saving per piece. That means the customer saves money with every single product processed. Therefore automation makes sense for smaller plants, but of course also for large production with millions or billions of gloves per year. It’s our main objective to make the investment attractive for factories of all sizes, in particular with an modular and expandable machine design which allows a payback of around 2 years for the investment.
EnterpriseTV: From which countries in Asia has DOEKA received most of the interest in and are they from established glove and condom manufacturers with many legacy production plants or are they emerging glove and condom manufacturers starting greenfield?
DOEKA: Indeed, the most interest came from Malaysia and both from long-term established companies and new emerging companies
EnterpriseTV: What other manufacturing industry sectors in Malaysia and Asia does DOEKA Asia plan to address with your advanced automation equipment and solutions.
DOEKA: We are expanding in all manufacturing sectors in Asia. We see a great interest in our automation solutions and costs saving experience from many sectors, most likely boosted by the COVID 19 crisis.
In Part 2, we will cover the Zoom session we had with Mr. Hummel and Mr. Kok.