Thirsty for new experiences, third-year Mechatronics Systems undergraduate Clarence Hoon did his Integrated Work Study Programme at HEINEKEN Cambodia’s brewery in Phnom Penh and had his fill of fun, learning and, yes, beer.
Clarence Hoon at HEINEKEN Cambodia. (Photo: Clarence Hoon)
For many, nothing beats an ice-cold beer after a hard day’s work. This explains why Clarence Hoon would be the envy of many – he got to work at Dutch brewing company HEINEKEN in Cambodia. The third-year Mechatronics Systems undergraduate at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) secured the overseas stint from 3 January to 11 August this year under the Overseas Integrated Work Study Programme (OIWSP), which gives SIT students access to work experiences abroad. He had initially received two OIWSP offers.
“One was for a tissue paper company in Vietnam, and the other was for HEINEKEN Cambodia. As I love drinking beer leisurely, it was an easy choice for me,” said Clarence, 25. “The job scope was also very relevant to what I learned in my degree programme, and I wanted to experience working in a new country with a different culture.”
A Meticulous Job
As a Planned Maintenance Engineer Intern, much of Clarence’s job entailed studying every nook and cranny of every machine that HEINEKEN Cambodia had, as well as all of their components. With this knowledge, he would develop new maintenance plans for different aspects of the brewery.
“My main role was to develop new maintenance plans for the bottling line and improve the existing maintenance plan for the brewery. This would help to prevent breakdowns and unplanned downtime for the packaging of beers and stouts, maximising production and reducing maintenance costs of the brewery. I also helped to create the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the wastewater treatment plant. This allowed me to work closely with the engineers, providing me with numerous hands-on experiences and insights into the engineers’ methodology for problem-solving and wisdom,” said Clarence.
During his stint at the brewery in the capital city of Phnom Penh, he was also entrusted with a few major assignments. For instance, he had to create an entire maintenance documentation for the bottle filler and crowner, the machine that ensures beer is packaged properly in bottles. To do so, he had to break down the entire machine into its bare components and devise airtight plans to ensure its smooth operation.
Having a chance to apply what he had learned in school was deeply rewarding. “The modules for requirements engineering, systems architecture and electromechanical design gave me fundamental knowledge of technical jargon that helped me acclimatise quickly with packaging machinery concepts and designs that I learned in SIT,” said Clarence.
Mr Akshay Setlur Ramamohan, Supply Chain Engineering Manager at HEINEKEN Cambodia, said, “Clarence helped to develop maintenance standards for our bottling filler and crowner in collaboration with our experienced engineers, which involved determining the maintenance strategy, frequency, and labour requirement. This will enable us to reduce downtime, improve the efficiency of our bottling line and reduce costs. It was a pleasure to work with Clarence; he was very organised and grasped our ways of working very quickly. He always stepped up to take on more tasks and was very responsible and dependable. Overall, he’s a bright student with excellent prospects.”
A Treasured Experience
His time at HEINEKEN Cambodia was not all work and no play, though. Clarence counts the quarterly town halls among his fondest memories of the eight-month stint. On these occasions, all the employees would gather and make merry at the brewery, akin to a lively large party. Of course, the town halls also serve a professional purpose – the management would take the chance to share the company’s progress and plans.
Living alone in a foreign country where he could not speak the local language proved a big challenge initially.
“I did not understand their language, so I did not talk a lot and felt quite isolated for the first three months,” he recalled. “However, I realised that I had to put in more effort to mix with the locals.”
He struck up a firm friendship with a colleague, who gave him a crash course on Cambodian culture and language. “He would teach me a word every day. Till now, we are still in contact.”
Ms Sangvavan Em, People Business Partner Executive (Supply Chain) at HEINEKEN Cambodia, said, “We have identified some positive impacts for the collaboration between HEINEKEN Cambodia and SIT on the IWSP programmes. These include having a skilled and knowledgeable workforce to support our projects, building a talent pipeline for future employment opportunities, opening doors to potential future collaborations, and fostering a more diverse and inclusive working environment.”
Clarence is thankful for the chance to broaden his horizons through the OIWSP. Through the sightseeing trips he took to different provinces on weekends and learning new skills and concepts that he picked up at work, the stint has been a period of much personal growth.
Clarence at Preah Monivong Bokor National Park in Cambodia’s Kampot province. (Photo: Clarence Hoon)
“The OIWSP has prepared me better for my future career as an engineer and is a precious experience for me to draw on as I forge ahead,” he said. “It has also made me much more open-minded, proactive and adventurous. I am now keener to broaden my career options and may even take on overseas jobs.”
Watch Clarence on his OIWSP journey here.