The Linde Group - A Transformative ROC in Greater Kuala Lumpur for The Linde Group

" The aim of the ROC is to bring together the control and operations of our industrial gas plants, not only in Malaysia, but across the South and East Asia region. "

Wong Siew Yap

17 March 2014 - Selecting a location to establish a regional operating centre typically involves conducting thorough research, weighing the costs and considering the pros and cons.

The Linde Group, however, through its Gases Division, had a serendipitous meeting with InvestKL last year to set up its Remote Operation Centre (ROC) in Greater Kuala Lumpur.

"The aim of the ROC is to bring together the control and operations of our industrial gas plants, not only in Malaysia, but across the South and East Asia region," says Wong Siew Yap, Former Cluster Head of Malaysia and Pakistan for The Linde Group, a world leader in industrial gases and engineering.

"Linking up with InvestKL to bring the ROC to Malaysia wasn't by design, but through a chance meeting at a function. More importantly, they followed up and were very proactive in asking us what our plans were."

Linde aims to make the ROC a centre for technical excellence by bringing together professional, talented and highly skilled engineers. Located in Shah Alam, Selangor (as part of Greater Kuala Lumpur), it is expected to be fully operational by the middle of 2014. Wong describes the ROC in essence as a transformative operating model in the industrial gases industry, especially for this part of the world.

"In the old days, each plant would have an engineer and a team of operators running it, but our aim now is to bring all the engineers together into an operations hub," he says.

"While this happens elsewhere in the world, mainly for cost reasons, we're doing this in South and East Asia to concentrate our talents together.
"Since most of our plants are operating at 99% uptime, meaning they are operating 99% of the time, they are stable and the engineers don't really have to do anything [at the plant]," Wong continues. "So, while you still have some operators and technicians on site, we'll have a hub of engineers concentrated in the ROC looking after 30 to 40 plants, which offers a challenging and more rewarding environment for them."

Greater Kuala Lumpur wasn't The Linde Group's initial choice to set up the ROC. It was also considering India and the Philippines and set up a pilot ROC in Singapore five years ago to ensure it understood the equipment and infrastructure requirements and other resource needs.

"The ROC was never intended to be in Singapore though. We wanted somewhere more cost-effective and we looked at India because of its talent pool," says Wong.

"But other things had to be taken into account as well: infrastructure reliability, employee turnover, an English-speaking talent pool, political stability, consistency in policymaking and other benefts. The country's liveability is also something to consider. It has to be a location where foreigners would be prepared to relocate as 20% of our engineers would be from plants in other countries."

The ROC now has 35 engineers and is hoping to employ up to 50 by the end of the year. Linde's target is to have a 80:20 ratio of Malaysian and foreign engineers and it has set a target of hiring 100 engineers by 2020.

In this way, the engineers get a taste of foreign work exposure and an opportunity to reassess their career path within the organisation by taking up senior positions in different countries.

"In the past, you would only focus on one plant [as an engineer], but now you have a breadth of plants to look at while learning about operating conditions outside Malaysia," Wong explains.

"For example, the power quality in Pakistan may not be as good as ours. This affects the reliability and continuous performance of the plant, so the man sitting behind that control in Shah Alam has to take cognisance of that."

To set the wheels in motion, Linde had to make a business case to the regional headquarters in Singapore on why Greater Kuala Lumpur should be selected as the ROC's location. InvestKL stepped in to help.

Linde’s Remote Operation Centre (ROC) in Greater Kuala Lumpur is currently in its testing stage, but it will soon be ready for full operation

" We had to establish what kind of incentives the Malaysian government had to ofer and this opened up a new dimension for us to consider. We needed guidance on this, which we got from InvestKL and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC). They opened our eyes to what we could actually tap. "

Wong Siew Yap

InvestKL and MDeC enlightened Linde about acquiring MSC Malaysia status for the ROC, granting it certain incentives, rights and privileges from the government.

"Our ROC will have MSC Malaysia status and is one of the pioneers to be awarded MSC-status facilities in Shah Alam. What we want in our ROC is also what the MSC wants it to have: infrastructure, telecommunications, connectivity and reliability. So this fts in with the requirement of setting up the ROC," says Wong.

"Up until now, InvestKL is still proactive in following up on our progress. In a way, they helped us promote Malaysia to our regional ofce."

The establishment of Linde's ROC in Malaysia to provide high-value engineering and design services is timely as MDeC is focused on moving Malaysia's shared services and outsourcing industry up the value chain by concentrating on high-value knowledge process outsourcing services. This is aligned with Malaysia's transformation into a sustainable, highly competitive, high-value and high-income developed nation by 2020.

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