It is an ingenious invention to help solve the problem of transporting and harvesting palm oil fruit bunches in the hilly plantations of Sabah. It is also this efficient and simple invention called gravity conveyor which won Tomher Industrial Sdn Bhd the much prized Special Innovative Product Award at the Malaysian Industry Excellence Awards in 2006.
The gravity conveyor is a boon to oil palm planters, designed to safely transport oil palm fruits from hilly and inaccessible areas. Tomher recognised a need for such a product as Sabah’s oil palm estates and plantations are located on hilly terrain, which makes it highly inconvenient and difficult for plantation workers to reach and transport the fruit bunches. The gravity conveyor is designed with a speed control feature called a speed damper to control the speed of the fruit as it comes down the conveyor, preventing the fruit from dropping too quickly into the collection hopper.
“The gravity conveyor is custom-made to suit the different hill topographies of Sabah to enhance productivity and efficiency levels and create a useful innovation for the agricultural sector,” says marketing manager, Miss Ellen Tan. “Winning this award highlights our ability to serve the needs of our oil palm customers as well as lets us move forward by producing more innovative products.”
The Tomher Gravity Conveyor is currently used by 10 major oil palm plantations in Malaysia, including FELDA and Boustead plantations. A patent was filed for the gravity conveyor in 2005.
The Industry Excellence Awards in 2006 was in its 16th edition since its inception in 1991. Organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), the awards seek to recognise companies which demonstrate exceptional performance in product development, exports of merchandise and services, quality management and brand-building. Companies vie for awards under the 5 main categories and an additional sub-category called the Special Award for Innovative Product.
According to the Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, the 179 companies taking part in the 2006 Industry Excellence Awards represented an increase of 28 companies or 18.5% from the 151 participating companies in 2005. This showed that companies were eager compete and raise the bar for product and service excellence.
The Industry Excellence Award is unique in that companies themselves choose to compete with their peers to receive recognition. When Tomher won the much-coveted Special Award for Innovative Product in 2006, Tomher was competing among 179 companies which took part and this number is set to get bigger each year.