Friday, 26 February 2016

EVs set to trailblaze Malaysian roads


Vision set by the National Automotive Policy, NAP 2014, towards creating Malaysia as the hub for Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) development and production has received positive respond, albeit industry players, government and public at large.
In a simple term EEVs are vehicles able to fulfil two essential criteria, namely; low or none emission propulsion satisfying the environmental greening initiatives and, low energy consumption for a set distance travelled. EEVs are future vehicles to satisfy the international demand for cleaner earth and global energy security.
While energy efficient internal combustion engine, or ICE, have become the main production focus by most local automotive manufacturers, some have now marketed their hybrid vehicles and some are exploring the possibility of marketing, and even manufacturing, electric vehicles locally.
The recent announcement by the government to allow electric vehicles (EV) from a renowned manufacturer, Tesla, is indeed encouraging. The intention will surely help to spearhead a rapid introduction of EV on the Malaysian road.
Public accessibility to EV was made available since 2014 with the introduction of the vehicles “sharing programme”, a collaborative effort between COMOS, a private company, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) and Malaysian Green Technology Corporation. The EVs are available at selected LRT terminals throughout the capital city providing self-driving connectivity for commuters to locations within the vicinity of the LRT terminals.
Batteries and charging infrastructure are two essentials required for efficient usage of EVs. Commercialisation of mass produced EVs can be restricted if the batteries employed require lengthy charging time and only able to attain modest driving range.
 On the other hand, public charging facilities must also be made available to support urban usage of EVs where consumers can recharge their batteries away from home while performing their daily chores.
Progress made in batteries development in recent years have been encouraging where there are claims that the new series of batteries can now propel certain EV models as far as 400km between charges. This made long distance driving of EV possible.
 The batteries however are still expensive and heavy adding extra weight on the vehicles rendering only them suitable for high end expansive EVs. Battery research and development are now focus on achieving some basic requirements apart from lower cost, which are; high specific energy for long runtimes, high specific power for load currents, long life, high safety, wide operating range, no toxicity, fast charging, low self-discharge and long shelf life.
Lithium-ion battery currently dominates most developmental work for EV application. The battery characteristic advantage is its 80 to 90% charge-discharge efficiency and having good power density, while its downside is short charge cycle life and significant degradation with age.
Other battery technologies now beginning to take centre stage in the EVs propulsion are lithium cobalt oxide and lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide with each having its own advantages.
Malaysia cannot remain passive in pursuing battery development and manufacturing initiatives. The nation must be prepared for the EV market entrance whenever timeframe it may be which seem to be sooner than expected.
On this accord, MAI in partnership with the Australian Automotive Research (Autocrc), has made progress in developing materials needed for future manufacture of EV batteries locally. The spin off from these development will see lithium based batteries will be manufactured in Malaysia in co-existence with the powder, cells and battery packs production.
In promoting EVs, Malaysia will lead the way in having the necessary supply chain developed and will include the production of electric vehicles for passenger and commercial usage.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Bridging programmes to help enhance graduate employability


New suggestion by the OPEC nations to cut oil production last week may cast some light in the horizon for a gradual global economic recovery.
Oil price at USD26.05 a barrel was the lowest on Thursday the 11th, and the next day the USA crude oil was up by 12% to USD29.44. Its biggest one-day rise since 2009.
High oil price volatility are still expected by some traders for sometimes to come.
Hopes of production cuts by OPEC members will certainly reduce the current global oil glut, which will lead to increase in demand and hence increase in prices.
It is a hope that this new development will alter the current global economic condition favourably.
The effect of every economic downturn on the rate of employment is one of the primary concerns. Prior to the 1998 financial crisis, the nation was enjoying a rate of employment at 2.4 % and as the crisis escalated the rate of employment heightened to 3.2% while the Ringgit devaluation stood at RM4.50 to a US Dollar.
The rate of employment of the Malaysian workforce have remained averaging at 3.25% since 1998, reaching an all-time high of 4.5% in March of 1999 and recorded low of 2.70% in August of 2012.
While the labour market condition remains favourable for 2015 and overall unemployment rate remained well below the 4% threshold of full employment, a concern remained on the unemployment situation of the nation youth and graduates.
Statistically those unemployed are amongst the youth between the age of 15 to 29, both graduates and non-graduates.
While six out of ten of those unemployed are below the age of 24.
Despite the current unfavourable economic climate some 88% of employers are maintaining or increasing hiring in 2016.
However lack in English language proficiencies and soft skills are the main weakness amongst the youth depriving them from being employed.
Absence of work experience amongst the graduates is another factor discouraging employers from recruiting fresh graduates. Lacks of skill sets required of the workplace too is depriving the graduates from being employed.
Writing skill, communication ability, problem solving methodology, creativity and innovativeness, time management and team works are amongst the graduates’ weaknesses depriving them from securing employments.
To enhance the employability of graduates for the automotive sector Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) as introduced bridging programmes focusing on strengthening the weaknesses of the graduates.
“Automotive Industry Certification Engineering” or AICE, introduced in August 2012, was mooted out of industry feedback on various teething problems they encountered when employing newly graduated engineers.
Apart from imparting the required soft skills the graduates are also equip with knowledge on important industrial practices such as quality management, Lean Production System and Design Engineering.
These soft skills were extensively introduced for a period of two months during the AICE training and the remaining ten months the graduates are stationed and working full time at various automotive related companies which will eventually employ them upon their completing the programme.
“Industry Led Professional Certificate” or IPC, is a bridging programme developed for those graduated from Community College, skill training institutions and polytechnics to help their adaptability to automotive work environment.
Apart from soft skill training participants are exposed to on-the-job training on specific area of technical skill as required by the participating companies which later will absorb them as their employees.
To date some 10,600 skill workers were trained under this programme whom are all now employed by the participating automotive companies.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Avoid purchasing vehicles on perceived values


Cars are priced based on the manufacturers' main objective to maximise their revenues.
Companies analyse the relationship between sales price and volume of sales achievable with the set sales price and the pricing decision in the final analysis will ensure profits are maximised.
Some automakers practice market oriented pricing strategy to determine their vehicles prices based on market conditions and competitors' prices within the same vehicle segment. However some automakers determine their price levels based on the market conditions and customers' perceptions.
Perception is a customers' behaviour with regard to their decisions in vehicles purchase and automakers do not usually overlook this factor in pricing their vehicles. One perception is their assessment of domestic versus foreign made which some car sellers capitalised as their marketing strategy.
Domestic or foreign made is largely a matter of perception and is debatable in the current automotive manufacturing ecosystem.
Manufacturers nowadays practice mix outsourcing for their components both locally and overseas. Most foreign manufacturers outsource non-critical components in the country of manufacture while critical components are from their parent companies or associates.
To achieve lower manufacturing cost automakers may also procure components from foreign countries that are able to produce them at much cheaper prices.
Locally established manufacturers will outsource those components that are locally unavailable. Therefore there exist a grey area where customers should establish the brand of cars they are purchasing, truly local made or foreign made.
A survey by a UK based consulting house illustrates an observation made on American customers on their perception between local and foreign made.
All major car manufacturers are truly global players and all assemble cars in the USA. The survey revealed that Ford and General Motors were perceived as the true American brands despite Ford Fusion and GM Buick Regal are two recent vehicles that are built outside the US but sold as domestic brands. Whilst brands such as those of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, BMW and Volkswagen are still considered foreign brands despite being assembled on American soil.
Car makers outsource components mix with minimum cost possible in order to widen their sales margin while selling their cars at a maximum perceived price customers would pay.
It has now become industry trend that car manufacturers will package those once considered optional accessories into the vehicle they produced. These packages vary from one vehicle version to another of the same segment. Henceforth the standard options now simply increase with each model resulting in the purchase offers to have very few non-standard accessories options. As such price of the vehicles are increased.
The above two factors are interesting issues that customers must consider in selecting the vehicles to purchase. Believing the vehicles with foreign brands but they are not necessarily foreign made, while increase in prices of vehicles could well be the manufacturers' new offer of packages of previously optional now inclusive as standard accessories.
Purchases should be made based on reasonable value of the vehicles not on their perceived reputation. Automakers will attempt to associate their brands on the basis of perceived lifestyle and foreign made, however consumers should evaluate brands in terms of their earned reputation for product excellence and their total ownership cost.
Local car manufacturers have been gradually reducing their prices of various degree respectively since 2013. An average of 5% was reduced in 2013 while 7% and 2.7% average reductions were achieved in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Owing to the current economic situation an average of 2.48% increase in car prices was recorded for the month of January 2016 which many were attributed to the increase in the cost of imported raw materials.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Transforming automotive environmental management


Automotive pollution began when the auto manufacturers and the various associated industries producing parts, components and other consumable items working with one other to manufacture the vehicles.
The industrial polluting than further extended by the aftermarket sector as the vehicle are sold and are running on the road burning fuel, while release pollutants and accumulate wastes during services and maintenance work throughout the vehicles life spans.
A study has claimed that the total number of vehicles running on the road worldwide have surpassed the one billion-unit mark since 2010. The vehicles include; passenger cars, light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks, and buses, but not including the off-road or heavy construction vehicles.
The report has also postulated that the world vehicles population will hit 2.5 billion mark by 2050.
Henceforth to mitigate the enormous environmental polluting impact of such a large vehicles population now and the future will be a great challenge.
The current initiatives to promote the introduction of EEV, the use of higher Euro standard fuels and bio-fuels in the country is paramount towards reducing the environmental atmospheric pollution by the fossil fuel driven vehicles.
However automotive industrial production and vehicles services and maintenance wastes pollutions are deem equally important in which efforts are now focused on the introduction of 4R2S initiative to transform the local automotive ecosystem towards becoming more environmental friendly.
4R2S is an abbreviation to represent; Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Remanufacture and Service and Spare parts.
“Reuse” is aimed at encouraging the services and maintenance community to employ good “used” or “returned” parts and components extracted from damaged or end-of-life of vehicles for the same functions for which they were previously installed.
Whilst “Repair” is to restore these used parts and components to a functional condition after worn out or damages are remedied prior to reinstallation into the vehicles.
“Recycling” is aimed at promoting automotive manufacturers and vendors, both upstream and downstream activities, to segregate and to reprocess non-reusable parts and components from damaged and end-of-life vehicles as inputs into their production line to produce new components, vis-à-vis material recovery.
On the other hand “Remanufacturing” is aimed at encouraging industry players to selvage parts and components to be reconditioned to as good as new using a standardized industrial process in line with specific technical specifications for further use on vehicles.
Educating and transforming the aftermarket services and maintenance community towards best practice and safe use of reused, repaired or remanufactured parts is abbreviated by the “2S” of the 4R2S initiative.
“Services” are sets of standardised actions or solutions adopted by workshop operators to provide repeatable and consistent maintenance works on various vehicles for the benefit of the customers, inclusive of safety and economical use of vehicles parts and components.
Whilst “Spare parts” is a methodological inventory of interchangeable parts for use in repair or replacement work of worn or failed parts and components. The “Spare Parts” include those that are new, used, repaired and remanufactured.
Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI), working closely with standardisation authority and motor vehicles regulators, is currently formulating the industry specifications for both the 4R and 2S respectively of the 4R2S automotive environmental management initiative.
The documents, once publicly accepted, shall be the guidelines for industry players and aftermarket operators to put into good practices in helping the nation towards a cleaner environment from automotive related pollutants.

Public education and promotion of the 4R2S concept will commence this year.

It is hopeful that the concept will be widely practiced by the industry players and the aftermarket community next year once the said 4R and 2S documents are made available.