How a life sciences manufacturer is reimagining the traditional factory
Operational excellence, resource management and risk mitigation rank as critical issues for any business, particularly in the manufacturing sector where firms are taking an increasingly active role in managing these aspects.
At the same time, many companies are also realizing that paying attention to the environment is not only practical and sustainable, but also, good for business. A growing group of companies is recognizing that real estate has a key role to play in both boosting productivity and reducing impact on the environment.
One such company that has embarked on combining both operational excellence and environmental sustainability is medical devices manufacturing company, Paramit.
Step into the company’s new USD$14 million manufacturing hub in Penang and you’ll see what we mean. The facility, which officially opened earlier this year in January feels like a holiday resort on first impressions: Lush greenery surrounds the facility while cascading waterfalls can be seen on multiple levels in the contemporary designed building.
The seamless blend of infrastructure and nature has led to the 162,000 sq ft space—about the size of two and a half football fields—being called the ‘Factory in the Forest’.
The project, which was managed by JLL, showed how a manufacturing facility—one of the largest in the region for medical devices and life sciences instruments—can combine the bold and the beautiful.
Paramit’s objective was to create an alternative to the traditional factory—which was more commonly associated with uninspiring and energy-inefficient buildings—using a unique blend of Earth’s natural environment and human creativity. to enhance employee engagement, as it is a key focus for Paramit as the war for top talent escalates.
“And the client wanted to take advantage of the natural setting – the angle of the building, shade factors, greenery, sunlight, and rain. For example, by using rainwater harvesting, they could move away from purchasing water and instead the rainwater instead of gardening needs,” explained Simon Vaughan, JLL Malaysia’s General Manager for the Project and Development Services.
Factory in the Forest
Green was a major theme for Paramit’s new facility, both literally and figuratively. The hub was designed with Malaysia’s tropical climate in mind, with the goal to encourage maximum energy efficiency.
The architect behind Paramit was John Bulcock, an award-winning architect who specializes in low-energy and sustainable builds.
“From various ventilation and solar control aspects, to low thermal capacity building materials, John drew his inspiration from the traditional Malay buildings based on what has worked for the Malay people for centuries,” said Vaughan.
Each architectural design was deliberately incorporated and aimed at reducing energy costs, mitigating risks and raising productivity. For instance, the tree canopies act as a natural shade from the harsh tropical sun, and an in-slab cooling system reduces power requirements for maintaining temperatures. Even the scenic gardens and waterfalls play a part in cooling the space.
These features are meant to reduce energy consumption by about 40 per cent from the usual levels, an achievement for a manufacturing facility.
“The use of low maintenance materials, natural light, and water-capture techniques improve efficiencies,” explained Henning Badenhop, JLL’s Managing Director of the Project and Development Services in Southeast Asia.
Materials used include off-form concrete, which is more easily maintained and has better durability than its traditional form. The angled windows shutters act as a cooling measure by capturing the cross-breeze, and the building can also collect rainwater for use.
The emphasis on sustainability at Paramit Penang comes on the back of a significant shift among businesses and manufacturers towards creating sustainable solutions. All around the globe, companies recognize the urgent need to preserve and protect the environment, and Paramit’s Penang facility achieves both objectives, said Vaughan.
“Creating eco-friendly buildings is definitely a focus for companies. It helps with reputation, energy cost-savings, and reaching sustainability targets. Paramit has made some brave decisions in the design and materials they’ve used,” added Badenhop.
Apart from protecting the environment, the facility is designed to help Paramit stand out in order to attract, recruit and retain top talent.
Paramit’s employee-friendly features include natural open spaces such as a rooftop garden and a courtyard to facilitate staff gatherings and offer a refreshing respite.
The close contact with nature provides an intimate working environment for the staff, and plays a part in enhancing work productivity. The design of the facility also has a homely influence which ‘incorporates an “at home” experience’, according to Badenhop.
“The facility is paying dividends in cost, company reputation and their ability to attract and retain staff,” says Vaughan. “With so many pharmaceutical and life-sciences companies setting up in Penang, competition is tough and there is a real need to set new standards and build reputation.”
For Paramit’s training specialist Nirmala Viramuthu, the building provides a source of inspiration.
“Feeling connected to nature helped us focus and be more productive,” she said, adding that her favorite part of the building was the courtyard. “Not many of us working in the factory have somewhere like this.”
The new facility also gives a major boost to the company’s branding. For one thing, the unique design of the facility has positioned Paramit as an industry leader in pharmaceuticals and life-science instruments, said Vaughan.
Green is the color of success
For Paramit, the unique facility is helping reduce costs, inspire its workers and boost its reputation in the industry.
“We’re driven by our clients’ ambition—building spaces that help attract the right people, and where ideas are shared to help them grow,” said Badenhop.
Paramit’s facility in Penang shows a different vision of the future of manufacturing, one in which production sites can optimize resource allocation, and maximize operational efficiencies, even as they protect the environment.
Doing so is not just aspirational, but practical and easily achievable with prudent planning and a desire to see beyond the horizon.