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The oldest operating match factory in Malaysia, Kelantan Match Factory is the home of the iconic Cap Lada/Chilly Brand matches, which are still widely used around the country today. We pay a visit to the 84-year-old factory.
The Kelantan Match Factory complex consists of a few warehouses and an art deco building, graciously standing the test of time on Jalan Atas Banggol in Kelantan’s Kota Bharu. Founded and built in 1933 by Bombay merchant A.G Shaik, the factory has been at the same spot for over 84 years. It’s the oldest operating match factory in Malaysia.
For several decades, Shaik and his family managed Kelantan Match Factory before the business was sold to the Tan family, who operate the factory to this day.
The entrance to one of the warehouses.
Back in the day, the factory would handle all stages of production, from creating wood strips and cutting matchsticks to boxing and packaging. Nowadays, wood strips and pre-cut matchsticks (without the match head) are imported from China to be more cost-effective. These “raw” matchsticks are then finished in-house.
Unlike modern factories, Kelantan Match Factory still relies heavily on a human production line. With around 30 workers employed, the factory can produce up to 800,000 boxes a day. Most of the workers have been working at the factory for well over a decade, if not two.
Mahmood Mohamed Noor, also known as Pak Mud, is the factory manager. He joined Kelantan Match Factory after he left the army 21 years ago.
Yah Maknun has been working at the factory since 1984.
The main warehouse where the match making takes place.
The making of the wooden matchboxes.
Stacks of thin wood sheets imported from China, used to make the outer matchbox.
Using a machine, the formed matchboxes are covered with blue paper strips. These are then placed in an oven to dry.
A daily tally of the boxes produced.
A worker inspects the quality of the matchboxes before sending them down the production line for labelling.
The biggest machine sits right in the centre of the factory. The perforated conveyor belts hold thousands of matchsticks for chemical dipping, drying and packaging.
A worker on standby to stir and control the match head chemicals. At this stage, the ends of matchsticks are dipped in a tray full of liquid solution to form the match head.
The coated matchsticks are dried by going through a lengthy loop on the conveyor belt.
At the end of the loop, the dried matchsticks are organised and filled into trays before they’re transferred to another machine for packing the matchsticks into boxes.
A worker watches as the machine fills each box with the finished matchsticks.
The filled matchboxes are then loaded onto trays and transferred to the next warehouse, where a striking strip would be added to each box.
The striking strip chemicals are mixed with adhesive before being applied to the boxes.
The finished products are later grouped together before they’re packed for shipping.
Address: Kelantan Match Factory 4874A, Jalan Atas Banggol, Kampung Sungai Keladi, 15300 Kota Bharu, Kelantan (09 7447 454). Open Sat-Thu, 8am-5.30pm.
Text and photos by Esha Hashim
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