MANY A TIME, the obvious complexities of everyday items elude us. Take the device many of us treat as extensions of ourselves: the mobile phone. CNBC estimates that Apple works with suppliers in 43 countries and six continents to make the iPhone; more, if broken down into raw materials.1 Or the vehicles that we so heavily depend on as an assertion of self-efficacy. These products are narratives woven together to tell the intricate story of global connectivity. And in the midst of such complexity, one chapter stands out for its familiarity. Globetronics is a homegrown manufacturer that is powering our presentday digital lifestyle; and chances are we currently own a product with their fingerprint on it.
Founded in 1991, Globetronics initially offered only one manufacturing service to a single customer – semiconductor burn-in services to Intel. Today, it is a public-listed company on Bursa Malaysia with multiple subsidiaries, producing electronic components for an array of ubiquitous consumer products that fuel our modern lifestyle. If anything, the test of time is a testament to the company’s ability to resonate with the pulse of mega trends within their product space.
“A big strength of Globetronics is that we have evolved really quickly along with the trends. Starting from the computing business, we ventured into the booming LED segment. Next, we observed an increase in automotive, which we embarked on as well. We are currently witnessing a huge mobile trend and have started going big into areas such as wearables, biohealth and IoT. We are also seeing a trend where LED has converged into lasers, and that is a product space we are exploring right now,” says Heng Charng Yee, the vice president of business and operations of Globetronics.
With a workforce of 1,600, the company has positioned itself as a formidable contender in the international arena: “We are a local company, but in the space of global electronics and technology manufacturing.” Given that almost all of Globetronics’ customers are MNCs, its direct competitors are found in more advanced countries such as Taiwan, Korea and Singapore that are reputed for their electronics and technology industries. Globetronics is also a major supplier in the global LED market where the market share is controlled by a handful of conglomerates.
Creating Positive Workplace Culture
Securing such a global position is not incidental; rather, it requires deliberate undertaking to shape shared organisational norms. For one thing, Globetronics emphasises a culture of belonging among its employees, e.g. employees are allowed the freedom, and are even encouraged to venture beyond their scope of work to pick up new skills and experiences. As a local company, the close proximity to the top management also allows employees greater opportunities to bring their ideas to life. “It is not uncommon for the CEO to know you here,” says Heng.
CEO Datuk Heng Huck Lee and vice president of business and operations Heng Charng Yee.
Such direct access is almost nonexistent in MNCs. What more if a particular facility is merely one of many global production sites; individual significance can very quickly dissipate. In the same vein, MNC facilities are by design, specific and narrow in their functions – this is in relation to the bigger, global objective of the company. Such a business model therefore does not permit a wide and varied scope of exposure to employees within any one single facility.
Being in an environment like Globetronics certainly has its advantages; the company also acts as a training ground to develop entrepreneurial skills, or at the very least, to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among its employees. Heng explains, “We are a lean organisation; our employees have to be hands-on to know the details. Interactions between the employees and leaders have to be really close, for direct coaching and mentoring to happen. This forms the learning process of becoming an entrepreneur.” This narrative is evidenced by employees who, when they decide to move on, go on to become managers in MNCs; some even start their own businesses.
As part of its corporate social responsibility mandate, Globetronics is currently focusing on developing talent in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In this domain, Globetronics is a partner to many state-led initiatives, including science fairs, strategic conferences, educational science labs and various technology-related programmes in the education sector. In looking towards the future of the digitalising economy, a new division has been set up within the organisation to train young talent. “We are creating a space for this young team to take leadership, both in hiring and proposing projects to explore new ideas, while still maintaining shareholder confidence. We have very passionate young engineers who in two to three years’ time are able to be at a level that may take some of the senior engineers three to five years to reach,” says Heng. In the long run, Globetronics aspires for the proportion of global Malaysian companies in Penang to be equal to their foreign counterparts, if not larger.