Wei Khoe Lim is a very patient man. Quickly appreciating that many people have little or no understanding of how his company’s products work and how they are impacting lives daily, the Managing Director of Analog Devices Penang slips easily into layman’s terms.
“Think of when you take a photo with the camera in your cell phone. The screen captures the signals and we provide the mixed signal devices converting the analogue signal into readable digital data,” he explains.
“Then, in cars we have about 100 different types of components and devices in battery management systems that help manage the rechargeable battery and deliver the right amount of electricity to devices to keep the car running.”
Okay, to put it simply, Analog makes the things that make electronic things work. A more sophisticated and comprehensive description reveals the company specialises in power management, data conversion and signal processing technologies that convert sound, temperature, motion and pressure into electronic signals used in most electronic equipment.
Wei Khoe leads around 1,700 employees at his Malaysian assembly plant, a subsidiary of the global American company headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts. While Analog’s core activity in Penang is manufacturing, it does support a small R&D team focusing on micromodules, package design and process development.
Finished products are sent to Singapore and the Philippines for final testing. Considered a hub for electrical and electronics (E&E) companies, Penang, a small island located in the Strait of Malacca off the north-west coast of Malaysia, has been home to Wei Khoe’s plant for 25 years. However, its legacy as a successful assembly plant was nearly cut short in 2016.
For more than two decades, the plant had operated as Linear Technology, with Wei Khoe appointed Finance Director in 2015 and Managing Director a year later, just as it was acquisitioned by Analog.
“As with any acquisition, there was a review of the various business areas where potential synergies could occur and office sites were reviewed as a part of this process. It was the toughest period of my career and there were many sleepless nights,” he remembers.
“It was the toughest period of my career and there were many sleepless nights.”
“Showcasing the strengths of the Penang offices was a large responsibility and provided an opportunity to set the facility up for a brighter future. That meant inspiring my team and keeping them focused on the future opportunities for our workforce.”
While allaying the fears of his employees, Wei Khoe knew he had to come up with a game plan to put his workforce in the best possible position to succeed. It took solid teamwork across the organisation to showcase the strengths and benefits of the Penang location.
Wei Khoe admits it was a unique situation for him, a new managing director whose background was in finance, not engineering. But it was Wei Khoe’s financial savvy that helped him negotiate with Analog and validate his claim that it would be more cost-effective to keep the existing plant and its workers as a subsidiary.
“I’m a trained accountant. Usually, in this industry, engineers are promoted up the ranks, not an in-house finance person,” he admits. “But one of my strengths is curiosity and, while I don’t have much engineering knowledge, I am always very interested to know how technology works and inquisitive about how technology affects and will affect our lives.”
Today, as the head of the company, Wei Khoe’s lack of engineering expertise is no great disadvantage, particularly as he keeps feeding that endless curiosity. “I am surrounded by very good professionals who I can seek out for advice,” he explains.
“I probably need to work harder than others to make sure I have a good understanding of how the operation is running, but that’s okay; I like to learn.”
He concedes that one of his major challenges is finding the right talent. On the small island of Penang, there is a comprehensive ecosystem of companies, offering excellent job opportunities and providing stiff competition.
“Penang is home to more than 300 multinational corporations and more than 3,000 local small- and medium-sized businesses,” Wei Khoe explains. “We look for very experienced engineers and mix them with some of the brightest new graduates to work hand in hand with them.”
Wei Khoe describes his leadership style as mixed; a combination of encouraging his team to be proactive but accountable, which means keeping communication and ideas aligned. He admits he wants everyone to take responsibility for their input and is “pretty quick” to follow up on discussions and ideas tossed into the ring.
“Proactiveness is a word that’s easy to say, but when it comes to implementing the strategy, it can be very, very difficult,” he says. “I like to encourage people to think outside of the box, see what we can do better, be proactive, follow through. And I make sure they do. You have to always be a step ahead of your competitors to guarantee a future. You cannot take things for granted.”
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