Southern Thinkers invent tool to keep city green

Robert demonstrating how the tugaliser is used. — Photos by Wilfred Pilo

AN innovative team from Kuching City South Council (MBKS) have come up with a smart way to keep the city green.

Calling themselves the ‘Southern Thinkers’, the team have invented a T-handler fertiliser dibbling tool to help their Landscaping Department maintain the healthy growth of plants and trees in and around the city.

The tool is called TUGALISER.

Tugaliser is a sort of portmanteau — where two words are blended to give the tool its name — tugal, a local word meaning to dibble, and liser from fertiliser.

According to Southern Thinkers spokesperson Jamadi Ahamad, the tugaliser literally allows the landscaper to dibble a hole in the ground around a tree and fertilise it.

He told thesundaypost at the MBKS Landscaping Department: “We first got the idea when the Council wanted to join 2013 Inter-Local Council Competition in Sibu. What we had in mind was an innovative tool to help the staff in their daily work and save costs and manpower at the same time.”

Jamadi said they started the paperwork for joining the competition in 2012, about a year before coming up with their invention.

“So we started making a low-cost prototype first generation dibble tool from recycled materials. We used a Coca-cola bottle for the fertiliser container.”

Robert (third left) handling the tugaliser with the Southern Thinkers. Jamadi is at second right.

The first dibble tool the Southern Thinkers designed and produced in 2013 won the competition in Sibu. The team did not rest on their laurels but continued to improve on their invention.

“In 2014 at the state-level competition, we won the Chief Minister’s Award for innovative products under the Technical Category.

“Then at the national level 2014 Chief Secretary Awards in Johor for innovative products, we were in the top 10 among all the local councils in the country,” he said.

Jamadi added that this prompted them to look back at their product and further improve it before going for the International Convention on Quality Control Circle (ICQCC) Award 2015 in Incheon, South Korea.

“When we browsed through the entries from Asia, including Japan and South Korea itself, we never thought we would win anything but to our big surprise, we did — the bronze medal. It was something we dared not even dream of when we went to South Korea.”

Jamadi said the team felt proud their innovativeness was internationally recognised but what was really special was making Kuching City South Council known in Asia.


Team effort

Since 2012, the team have been putting in a lot of efforts to make sure the dibble tool is easy to use.

“It’s really a team effort. With the tugaliser now better than before, it has made the work of the Council staff easier.

“There are so many trees to fertilise and it would be more cumbersome to use garden hoes. But with the tugaliser, the Council staff can dibble 10 holes and drop in 100gm of fertilisers so much faster.”

According to Jamadi, the container of dibble tool is filled with one kg of fertiliser pellets before they start on each tree.

“The tool is very easy to use and it weighs about five kg. You make a hole in the ground by putting your foot on a steel stand, then you push the tool into ground. After that, you press the lever at the T-handle to release the fertiliser pellets from the container.”

He said the tool is patented and owned by the State government.

“We cannot commercialise the product — only the State government can. But we have shown the product to the other councils and told them it’s easy to use.

“There is probably more research and development to be done on the tugaliser but, of course, if it were to be commercialised, the government could earn from it.”


Further improvement

Jamadi said MARDI (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) and Universiti Pertanian Malaysia had seen the tool and taken note of how it is used on a landscape.

He felt confident the tugaliser could be further revolutionised to make it more compact and fit into a carrier bag.

“At an exhibition in Johor, people thought we were carrying a firearm. We wrapped up the tool according to its shape, making people curious.

“So if we could made a nice carrier bag, then it might not look offensive at all,” he quipped.

Jamadi said inventing the tugaliser had brought about a change of mindset to the Council staff, adding that it encouraged them to be more creative and innovative.

“Moreover, the tool also saves the Council costs and manpower. Apart from savings, manpower can be diverted to other works — which will lead to greater productivity.”

He hoped someday the tool could be branded as a world class product.

This was, in fact, the Southern Thinkers’ ultimate goal when they first hatched the ‘tungaliser’ idea.

Jamadi said the team would continue to be innovative to make the residents proud not only of their local council as a service provider but also its staff for being creative to improve efficiency.

The Southern Thinkers involved in the tugaliser project are Mohd Taufiq Abdullah ( facilitator) Robert Jackius (head) Jumadi Ahmad (spokesperson), Iskandar Sharkawi, Mohd Faiyzal Kassim, Zakaria Jamain, Robiah Futra, Dayang Nurazimah Abang Muas, Mohd Samsuri Joli and Ronee Ramli.


Forging innovation

Commenting on the team’s feat, Kuching City South Mayor Datuk James Chan said: “Innovation is something we all must strive to forge in order to improve ourselves and our organisation in delivering efficient public service.

“Definitely, the innovative design of the tool, conceived by the Southern Thinkers, has improved productivity in the Council’s landscaping and gardening activities. One can see a greener environment.”

(From left) Robert, Dayang Nurazimah and Robiah with the awards won by the Southern Thinkers.

He pointed out that the team’s achievement had certainly spurred the staff to come up with more innovative ideas and products in their own areas of work.

“This, in turn, will create a conducive working environment and help promote greater productivity and job satisfaction.”

Chan said as mayor, he is certainly proud of what the Council staff have achieved.

He stressed he would continue encouraging them to be innovative and resourceful to not only improve the Council but themselves as well.

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