Sipro Plastic Industries Sdn Bhd, a manufacturer and assembler of plastic parts and components, has grown by leaps and bounds with a string of respectable clients and a growing export market. Led by its managing director Noraini Soltan, who has received various accolades for her entrepreneurship, the company has registered consistent growth that saw it through major economic crises. Last year, Sipro posted a whopping 80 per cent growth in sales to RM24.8 million from RM13.5 million in 2004. Noraini attributed last year's sales to new customers and introduction of new products. "We used to make simple plastic parts and components but now, we make products that involve assembling. This improves our growth significantly," she told Business Times in an interview in Shah Alam recently. From a modest operation in a factory in Shah Alam with two machinery and three employees in 1992, Sipro has expanded to three factories. The second factory was opened in 1996 in Sungei Petani, Kedah, while another in Bukit Beruntung, Selangor, will be operational next year. Sipro produces and assembles plastic parts and components for the automotive, electrical and electronics, and telecommunications sectors. Its products include wire meshes, grille defrosters, case chains, speaker covers, meter covers, telephone sets, and other engineering and precision products. Locally, the company's customers include national carmakers Proton Holdings Bhd and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd, national motorcycle manufacturer Motosikal dan Enjin Nasional Sdn Bhd, Sony Electronics and Panasonic. Noraini said 75 per cent of Sipro's customers are from the automotive industry, 20 per cent from electronics and telecommunications industries, and the remaining 5 per cent from other industries. If Sipro achieves its sales target this year, it will graduate from being a small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) category. The company anticipates 30 per cent growth in sales this year to about RM32 million against an average 20 per cent in the past. An SME in the manufacturing sector is defined as an enterprise with full-time employees not exceeding 150, or with annual sales turnover not exceeding RM25 million. Sipro also boasts of a high productivity level, maintaining its existing manpower amid strong sales. Noraini, who received the Ernst & Young Women Entrepreneur Award 2003 and DPMM Women Entrepreneur Award 2004, attributes Sipro's high productivity to consistent automation and process improvements. Sipro implements Kaizen strategies, which emphasise continuous efforts towards improvement. Kaizen, the Japanese management principle, focuses on the Just-In-Time concept (production is dictated by consumers' demand), quality improvement and the elimination of wastage to improve efficiency. "We have programmes where we engage experts from Japan for a three- to six-month period to improve production," she said. Noraini said the local market contributes 90 per cent of company revenue currently, with the remaining 10 per cent coming from export markets. Sipro exports its products to Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and France. "Within three years we hope to expand our exports to be 25 per cent of total revenue," she said. To realise the targeted export growth for the past few years, Sipro has been participating in exhibitions and trade missions organised by Malaysia External Trade Development Corp and other agencies in Germany, Australia, Japan and South Korea. The company is also exploring markets in the Middle East, Spain and Brazil. "After one or two years, we will know which markets can be penetrated." Noraini believes that if she goes out to the overseas markets often, she may one day strike a deal with a major customer. She said there is always competition in any area of business. To differentiate itself from competitors, Sipro produces value-added products that not many companies produce.