“We are one team ! Making a huge factory from scratch”

AJINOMOTO (MALAYSIA) BERHAD was established in Malaysia in 1961, and it has operated for over 60 years since then. The construction for a factory relocation project was commenced in October 2019 with the plan of a huge factory with GFA of 54,000m2 including 2 production buildings and 4 non-production buildings in the site area of about 188,000m2. The project team consisted of 6 local staffs and 2 Japanese CPMOs (Chief Project Management Officer). Although they went through the lockdown due to COVID-19, the construction of the new factory was completed in December 2022, and the Opening Ceremony was held with attendance of Sultan of Negeri Sembilan and the ambassador of Japan in Malaysia. We interviewed Mr. Takahiro Sato, the first CPMO and Mr. Takafumi Higuchi, the second CPMO about how they managed to build the ideal factory.


Ajinomoto (Malaysia) Berhad


Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

Building Usage

Factory, warehouse and office


Approx. 54,000m2


RC + Steel

No. of Storey

To build a factory with best practices

The Ajinomoto Group has factories all over the world, and established AJINOMOTO (MALAYSIA) BERHAD in Malaysia in 1961. After 60 years of the operation, the relocation of the existing factory was determined. According to Mr. Sato, in order to build an ideal factory, they integrated all the best practices that the Ajinomoto Group acquired from its history into the new factory.

“For instance, we enhanced strengthening the functions of the development and the production for Halal products and unique ingredients, and put the effort for making a worker-friendly environment with automated equipment. Moreover, we kept the space for installing new equipment for the future automation. One of our social initiatives in this project is that we focused more on the environment in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) such as using natural gas and introducing solar panels, and we are applying for GBI (Green Building Index) now. We also established the museum for showing these activities, and hope the customers will become the fans of AJINOMOTO.” (Mr. Sato)

Mr. Takahiro Sato
Director, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, and Chief Supply Chain Officer

Mr. Sato experienced many projects for production technology development and factory construction/expansion both inside and outside of Japan since he joined the Ajinomoto Group. He joined this project in 2018, was appointed as CPMO and moved to Malaysia in the following year when the project was still on the phase of the land levelling work. He led the project from the very beginning of the stage.

Aiming a spontaneous organization

Mr. Takafumi Higuchi
Chief Transformation Officer

The 6 local staffs were chosen with the reasons of their passions and personalities rather than their experiences in a construction.

“Each person took on a different leadership role in this project. For instance, we appointed a staff who was familiar with engineering as the construction leader.” (Mr. Sato)

However, it was not easy to build a huge factory with members who did not know each other well. At first, Mr. Sato encouraged them to communicate actively.

“The worst thing we may encounter in a huge project is that an overdue concern which has been neglected due to poor communication will come out. In order to avoid it, I tried to keep an organization open for discussion timely.” (Mr. Sato)

The key is greeting.

“I actively greeted and talked to the members. In order to make an organization with a good atmosphere, we should say thank you even for small things and say sorry when we are wrong. It is very simple but very important as well.” (Mr. Sato)

Another thing he focused on was management that led to the growths of the staffs.

“People cannot grow with just doing what they are told to do. I frequently asked them about open questions and tried to hear their answers and opinions. We kept communication to aim a spontaneous organization.” (Mr. Sato)

Though there are excellent people, an expert who knows construction projects well is necessary. The Ajinomoto Group decided to appoint a CM company at the early stage, and selected Plus PM Consultant as the result.

“We are familiar with equipment and process for production. However, we don’t have know-how of construction. With turning over the construction part to Plus PM Consultant, we could use our time more efficiently. In the end, we consulted Plus PM Consultant about the production process as well.” (Mr. Sato)

As one of strategies, we took the split order method.

Teruo Funamoto
Project Manager
Plus PM Consultant Sdn Bhd

“To invest in a huge factory, we need to get an approval in our company internally, but it was very difficult for us to assume how much the proper cost was. We consulted Plus PM Consultant about our concern and after consideration, we ended up doing an assessment before the final tendering. Based on the estimated cost clarified from the assessment, we could apply for the budget. With this method, we could visualize how much we would need.” (Mr. Sato)

Lockdown due to COVID-19

As the successor of Mr. Sato, Mr. Higuchi was appointed as the second CPMO in July 2021.

“As well as Mr. Sato, I have experienced many projects both inside and outside of Japan since I joined the Ajinomoto Group. I moved to Malaysia in 2021 as the successor of Mr. Sato.” (Mr. Higuchi)

When he arrived in Malaysia, the construction of the new factory was completed by 99%. His role was reviewing the completeness of the new factory if the construction was completed, installing production equipment, and getting the new factory ready for the operation. However, the project had stopped due to the lockdown of COVID-19.

“My role as CPMO was to manage cost and schedule. However, during the lockdown, All I could do was rescheduling and pushing back plans week after week,” Mr. Higuchi says with remembering those days.

In such a situation, the Management advised him to declare a significant delay instead of rearranging plans week by week. Thanks to the advice, he could focus on what he could do even during the lockdown.

One of the problems was that the project members and other non-project members were not equally eager in this relocation project. The goal of the project is not only building a new factory but also providing a new place for them to work and live with full satisfaction. Mr. Higuchi was considering so much how everyone could actively prepare the relocation.

“I thought deeply how to let everyone involved with the project as their matter. For instance, when a staff said, ‘we visit the new site,’ I corrected it to ‘live, not to visit’. Since we postponed the schedule, we took more time on these things eventually.” (Mr. Higuchi)

These efforts kept staff motivated and doing what they could do, and the project resumed little by little but steadily.

“To be honest, I was very surprised by the number of the project members at first. A project, which has a huge site, was coordinated by only 6 relatively young local staffs and me, but as soon as I got to know them, I understood that this team was full of people with potentials.” (Mr. Higuchi)

What a great job we have done !

After getting over many challenges, the new factory started to operate in December 2022.
At last, we asked these CPMOs how they are feeling now after finishing the project.

“I feel both released and tense. At first, I worried if we could accomplish such a huge project with members who I never worked with. It was a relief when we completed the construction of this new factory with the support of Plus PM Consultant. At the same time, I feel very tense and motivated to make the intangible of the new factory good as well. There is no meaning if we only have a good facility, but no any good contents.” (Mr. Sato)

“I have gone through many new factory projects for expansion, but this was my first time to be involved in a relocation project. For expansion, we can use the resources of the existing factory for expanding features and the scale gradually. However, in case of a relocation, we need to prepare everything all at once. It was very difficult to do such a thing, but I appreciate this infrequent opportunity.” (Mr. Higuchi)

Both of them said this project would not be successful without the growth of the project members.

“Many people including people in high positions have visited the new factory until now. When I see the project members guiding them with smile and confidence, I can feel how dedicated they have been to this project. It makes me happy when visitors comment that “everyone looks so confident” during factory tours. (Mr. Sato)

“I have a different perspective from Mr. Sato. I think that they have not fully realized the degree of their achievements. During the review in the term-end, I told them “What a great job we have done !” I want them to realize their great achievements and continue to grow even further.” (Mr. Higuchi)

The new factory has just begun to operate. The Ajinomoto Group will develop more, led by the grown project members.

From the Project Manager

Teruo Funamoto
Project Manager
Plus PM Consultant Sdn Bhd

This project was so big that it is not easy for both the Ajinomoto Group and me to describe it all in words. The clients said they have grown through the project, and I feel that Plus PM also has grown as a company. We have learned so many things.

So far, we have received projects from many Japanese companies in ASEAN, and sometimes saw they made decisions only by Japanese people. However, AJINOMOTO (MALAYSIA) BERHAD always involves local staff to make decisions. They value opinion from local staff as well as Japanese staff. It was very impressive. I am so grateful that I could work with the company that has a 60-year-long history in Malaysia and that we could complete the project successfully.

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