RUNNING a business is like leading a music band, according to Mexter Technology Bhd chief executive officer Ivan Sia.
“Everyone in the band has his own instrument to play, just as different people in the company have different roles. Even if just one band member does not play in time with the rest, the music will come out sounding uneven and out of sync,” he told StarBiz in an interview.
Music is close to Sia's heart. This is hardly surprising as he comes from a family of musicians who play instruments such as the guitar, bass, drums and trumpet. As for Sia, he enjoys playing the guitar and composing songs.
However, Sia did not turn professional musician like his younger sister who is a piano teacher because he finds engineering and business even more exciting.
Today, he leads a company whose e-manufacturing solutions help ensure harmony on the production floor. He and his team have done so well that Mexter Technology is not only a local player but also a regional one.
On Tuesday, Mexter reached another milestone when it was listed on the Mesdaq market. Strong investor interest pushed its share price to close at RM1.26, up 217.5% against its initial public offer price of 40 sen with a total volume of 205,040 shares. At yesterday's close, it gained 1 sen to RM1.27.
Sia, who holds a degree in microelectronics from Campbell University in South Carolina, cut his teeth in the engineering industry in Motorola Sdn Bhd in Seremban where he worked as a process automation engineer for about a year.
“After a while, I felt I needed a change and started to look for something more challenging. I decided to set up my own business in 1992. It was definitely a big step that I took, but I feel pleased about what I have done.
“Building up this business certainly took a lot of hard work, but my contribution has paid off,” said Sia.
The company is principally an investment holding company of the Mexter group that comprises seven companies in three business divisions: e-manufacturing solutions division, information technology solutions and information technology outsourcing division, and e-automation platform provider division.
Mexter started in Malacca as Mexter (M) Sdn Bhd (MMSB) with only four employees in 1992, providing electronic manufacturing (e-manufacturing) solutions. Moving on to develop its own manufacturing process management (MPM) solutions, it became the first local company to offer these solutions in 2000.
“Providing MPM solutions has been the core business for Mexter since 2000. This is because there is a relatively large number of manufacturing establishments that have yet to install industrial automation equipment,” said Sia.
MexterMPM solutions provide simulation and optimisation to implement production plans. In addition, the functions on process enforcement, machine monitoring, production history and “traceability” are included to identify errors.
The solution also provides functions such as test, quality assurance and repair, inventory control, and alarm and report to verify the errors.
“I have confidence in the Malaysian market as far as the MPM solutions are concerned. And I expect a revenue of around RM30mil by 2008,” added Sia. The company recorded revenue of RM18mil from the sales of MPM solutions last year.
Sia said shortly after MMSB was set up, it managed to secure projects from Infineon Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd, (formerly Siemens Component Advanced Technologies Sdn Bhd) and National Semiconductor Sdn Bhd.
“The system helps manufacturers improve their efficiency and productivity .
“In 1992, our revenue was about RM200,000. This was an impressive turnover result for a new company,” said Sia.
In 1994, the e-automation platform provider division was established when MMSB was appointed by Advantech Corp Ltd as distributor of its products in Malaysia.
Advantech Corp’s core businesses are e-automation, network computing and applied computing.
Up to 1999, however, Mexter faced a shortage of funds that limited its expansion potential.
The company had a new start in 2000. First, the name Mexter Technology Sdn Bhd was officially unveiled. With the subsequent launch of MexterMPM solutions, Mexter's future was now promising.
On the new name, Sia said: “I think the name has an international feel and it was the management’s dream to take the company to the global market right from the start.”
In 2004, the group successfully expanded to Indonesia and China, and it plans to enter other markets such as Thailand, Japan and South Korea within the next few years.
“In the near term, we will be concentrating on vertical markets penetration, which means we intend to penetrate deeper into specific industries. For instance, we intend to expand our customer base in the automotive market.
“We’re also identifying other industries that can adopt our solutions,” said Sia.
He added that the company was expanding in all areas from R&D to sales and marketing to meet the requirements of new domestic and overseas markets. Mexter is already a regional player, and the medium-term target is to be a global player in the e-manufacturing solutions market.
“I envision the day when Mexter’s solutions can be found in every production plant in the world,” Sia said.
He said the key strategy for Mexter's overseas expansion would be to put its own resources and engineering teams in the overseas markets to localise its solutions.
“We are exporting our solutions to the Chinese language interface. Besides having our own sales and marketing resources, we will also work with local partners to leverage on their business networks,” said Sia.
Reverting to his music band analogy, he said his team was now a “tight band, having played together for so many years.”
“We had been playing in smaller venues, but with our IPO, we will be able to play in concert halls in future and are working towards building a full-fledged philharmonic orchestra for our audience!”