Thursday, 30 June 2016

Vehicle roadworthiness just as important as safe driving behaviour

The Malaysian automotive industry has recently been rocked by Honda’s global recall exercise, affecting models manufactured as early as 2003.
The recall, involving a replacement of faulty airbags that may cause injury or death, due to the rupturing of inflators when the airbags deploy in a crash.
We have seen Honda’s tireless efforts to ensure that all its faulty components are replaced, and to ensure the safety of its consumers are preserved.
This issue raises an important discussion point of safety – the safety aspects of the car are just as important as how we drive, and more often than not, even the most prudent of drivers are susceptible to danger if their vehicles are not maintained properly.
More importantly, manufacturers take all possible measures to ensure the safety of their products up to the warranted period of the vehicle.
Beyond this point, owners must take more active roles in ensuring the roadworthiness of older vehicles are retained for the remaining life of the vehicle.
Vehicle roadworthiness refers to the suitability of a vehicle for operation, ie. it meets the acceptable standards for safe driving on the road – which includes drivers, their passengers as well as those around them, either in other vehicles or pedestrians.
For example, a car with a faulty brake pump poses danger to those in and around the vehicle, as the inability of a car to stop, even at slower speeds, can cause serious injury or damage.
More often than not, the symptoms of potential brake failure are very difficult to spot for the untrained casual motorist. It takes regular, periodic inspection by a trained mechanic to decide the fitness of vehicle components.
Apart from brakes, there are numerous points on the vehicle that require periodic inspection, such as above and under carriages, tyres, suspension systems, emissions, front and rear light, etc.
The introduction of more complex systems, such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), has also added complication to the inspection process, creating an urgent need for expansion of the vehicle inspection sector.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 aims to address this issue through a voluntary vehicle inspection policy for private vehicles.
As inspection is already mandatory for commercial vehicles, it is now important for the nation to start its progress towards public awareness and infrastructure development to ensure adequate public access to periodic vehicle inspection is guaranteed for all motorists.
Other than Puspakom, there are numerous centres for vehicle safety inspection, including respective service centres appointed by car makers.
In fact, we can see many OEMs offering free inspection to their customers during this festive season.
At the end of this week, millions of cars will begin the mass movement out of the capital city, travelling back to our loved ones.
I hope that our preparation for a safe journey home is at par with the preparations for the day of festivities itself.
At the end of the day, it takes just one minor malfunction that leads to years of regret and sorrow.
I urge all those intending to travel this year to take some time to inspect your vehicle at your nearest qualified mechanic to ensure a happy and fruitful journey.
Lastly, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all Malaysians "Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Dan Batin".

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Perdana to drive Proton's goal of becoming globally competitive

At the recent launch of the new Proton Perdana, the prime minister was crystal clear on Proton’s direction – the national carmaker must transform itself to be independent of government support and quickly find its footing to penetrate the global market.
Its newly-appointed chief executive officer and his deputy spent a humbling amount of time at the launch. They detailed the company’s new philosophy, seen immediately in Proton’s new model, and promised a shift towards global mindsets, from its design thinking down to customer experience years after the purchase of Proton’s models.
The long-awaited model spurred a mixed reaction from the public and media, focusing on the company’s price positioning, as well as its future business strategy, given that Proton has again received assistace from the government.
To assess Proton’s future, it is important to objectively analyse recent initiatives while learning from past shortfalls of a carmaker that rose despite the challenges faced since its inception, in a country which at that time, only excelled at agriculture and mining.
The most noteworthy start of Proton’s transformation plan involves the launch of a D-segment model. As we know, this is a very challenging segment, confronting a customer base with quality expectations that surpass its selling price. This is a strong message that Proton is willing to wade stiffer challenges instead of resting in its current position. 
Further demonstrating its transformation, Proton broke its destructive tradition of building its own platform and intelligently partnered with a global player to deliver a proven foundation to its newest model line-up. 
They added value by redesigning the top hat and extended the car’s body to deliver the longest car in its class. Proton’s engineers also added new front and rear lamps, navigation systems and redesigned the trunk to allow more space.
The D-segment’s biggest challenge is production volume. Despite an annual production forecast of about 7000 units, the Perdana was priced lower than other cars in its class, using about 60 percent local components. Profitability was maintained through the re-engineering of Proton’s production processes, which included the introduction of hydraulic presses to stamp its body panels.
Proton expects to launch two other new models this year in order to remain competitive in the lower market segments. It has also initiated the development of new energy-efficient engines, allowing further enhancements to its current product line-up. 
At the same time, the customer can expect a better after-sales experience. Proton has committed to further enhancement of its vast network of dealers and service centres. Consumers can now visit its website to find many new initiatives Proton is providing, including pick & delivery, mobile assistance and online service bookings. 
The recent developments in Proton, in particular its approach towards the development of the new Perdana, signify transformative steps for our national carmaker to wade through the ever challenging global automotive market. It has began establishing strategic collaborations, building safe, reliable yet cost-effective products, and is working hard to regain brand trust from customers.
At the end of the day, consumers are not concerned with production volume, quality data or technical alliances. As long as Proton takes the right steps to deliver reliable, safe and competitively priced products, it will secure its future.
All eyes are on Proton and I hope this year’s Ramadhan will be remembered as the turning point for Proton to achieve global competitiveness.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Applying the spirit of Ramadhan to boost competitiveness

In a few days, we will have surpassed the halfway mark of Ramadhan. At this point, many of us would have adjusted to a new daily routine that accommodates fasting, food preparations for sahur and iftar, as well as tarawih prayers. 
For most of us, the spiritual enhancement we gain through fasting is the experience together with our family and friends and the adaptation of our daily routines becomes all the more important, as we find duty in providing a more comfortable experience for our loved ones to face the restraints imposed during the holy month.
Ramadhan is that time of the year, where we reflect on our spiritual inner being. The abstention from food, drink and other desires creates better self-discipline, self-control and opens up our eyes and hearts to the hardships faced by those who are poor and in need.
It is also interesting to analyse the benefits of Ramadhan through the perspective of human capacity building – as a means to develop our basic habits towards maximising productivity, while at the same time, maintaining our work, life and spiritual balance.
For example, an article written on the daily habit of the world’s most successful chief executive officers cited that rising early was a near universal trait of top performing executives. Early mornings are very productive times – they are quiet, serene conditions for us to perform with the freshest mind. We also create more time for ourselves and are one step ahead of our competition.
The sahur is an effective way to develop such a habit. It requires us to wake up much earlier than usual as we prepare the meal to ensure our entire family rises in time to complete the practice. 
Another significant example is the tarawih prayers. Despite not being a compulsory prayer, many of us commit to going to the mosque to pray for the entire month. As we know the benefits promised when performing Tarawih, we do not mind doubling our “work load” in order to achieve those benefits later on. 
The psychology behind tarawih provides a lesson for us – both as individuals and as organizations. It shows us that we can be more productive when we find true benefit from an act, and develop a passion for it. At the same time, we learn that clear communication of a common goal can propel us all to work harder towards achieving those goals as a team, despite our differences.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led three victories during the month of Ramadhan in the battles of Badr, Khandaq and Tabouk. These amazing feats make us ponder the effectivity of fasting on the mind and soul, and how it leads to competitiveness.
It is therefore advantageous that we also look at Ramadhan as a session of self-improvement from a competitiveness standpoint. I believe that all the additional practices that are advocated to us in this holy month have implications on our capabilities as human beings. What remains is our ability to optimise these advantages and apply them to our daily routines throughout the year, and not just limit them to a single calendar month.
The writer is chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Malaysia must adapt to changes in tech consumption

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has become a central agenda at the recent World Economic Forum, from its Annual Meeting in January in Davos, Switzerland, to its regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur just last week.
The three industrial revolutions, in which the first started in the 1700s through the introduction of the steam engine, created global disruptions to the livelihood and business operations of the world population.
Subsequent revolutions, sparked through the discovery of electricity, mass production, electronics and information technology created similar disruptions throughout the next two centuries.
These disruptions caused massive need for industries to adapt to new business models and management philosophies.
The fourth industrial revolution has been seen through the digitalisation of our way of life –  primarily through the introduction of smart technology with the ability to communicate seamlessly through the cloud server.
This connectivity comes with the power to monitor and control daily activities through the simple touch of a button on our smartphones, tablets and other devices – all linked to the internet.
A primary core of the fourth industrial revolution is the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data Management. Simply put, all future applications, devices, and machinery will connect to each other through a massive exchange of data and information which, in turn, will be curated and analysed into a “system of systems” that influence and support our daily decisions and livelihoods.
This revolution has impacted the automotive industry for quite some time now.
In the late 20th century, vehicles that had run for decades on purely mechanical systems were replaced by the more advanced electronic fuel injection systems.
Today, virtually all vehicles depend on multiple sensors that send data to the electronic control unit (ECU), which processes this data to make important decisions, such as fuel usage, traction control, braking force distribution, etc.
Although the last three decades saw these data processed and consumed only within individual vehicles, the current speed of data connectivity and transmission will soon see this data consumed over vast networks that connect all vehicles, car manufacturers, component suppliers, service centres, traffic management systems, and governing agencies.
Just like how a smartphone has connective apps that, based on data available through the internet, help us become better photographers, navigators, cooks, or gardeners, the car will also have in-built apps that not just change the way we drive, but also transforms the vehicle into an integrated system for mobility.
The IoT and Big Data have given birth to the possibility of self-driving cars, which will run on massive online data containing detailed information on consumer behavior, traffic and weather conditions, vehicle performance, etc.
To remain competitive, Malaysia’s automotive industry must make the adaptation to this exponential change in technological consumption a top priority, and formulate business models that will cater to the future demands of consumers, not just from a product standpoint but also integrated data management systems within manufacturing and aftersales, which are compatible with the massive flow of data in the future.
To enable this technological acquisition for the local automotive ecosystem, Malaysia Automotive Institute has embarked on the MAI Intelligent Technology Solutions (MITS), an umbrella initiative that provide accessible cloud based applications to automotive businesses in the areas of product and process design, smart manufacturing, quality assurance, inventory management as well as aftersales and consumer marketing.
This initiative will optimise collaborative efforts within the automotive community, linking the three most important stakeholders – the industry, government and academia to propel Malaysia’s competitiveness through the next era of sustainable mobility.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Auto Sector Offers Fulfilling Career Paths

The old adage that “Success is a journey, not a destination”, is an important principle when charting our career paths.
Many define success as a function of two factors – income and happiness. It is due to these factors that society has developed “standard” routes to success, seen in the pursuit of higher academic qualification, management positions or even breaking into the entrepreneurial ventures.
These are perfectly valid ways of achieving success. However, it is also important that as a society, we should not label “routes to failure”. Many advanced nations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, report that less than half of their populations attain bachelor’s degrees. Despite this, the standard of living of their general population is considered comfortable, as many have found success through other routes.
It is therefore important that as individuals, we define our goals for success in life. A goal oriented mindset allows us to capitalise on our passions and strengths to achieve a life experience which is fruitful at the physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
The only question remaining is how do we achieve our life goals?
Malaysia has one of the most accessible higher learning in the world. The education ecosystem does not only consist of universities that offer academic qualifications, but also numerous training centres and institutes that provide opportunities for the populace to develop their hands-on skills – an important component of the Malaysian economy.
Even in the unfortunate circumstances of inaccessibility, it is not the end of the world. There are many success stories of those who rose from the ground level, and developed themselves to become leaders within the automotive industry.
The automotive sector relies on a multi-disciplined workforce, with opportunities available throughout entire supply chain. It is an industry with unique and diverse challenges, and many who have spent their lives in the industry will attest that it is a fulfilling career that allows anyone to chart their path to success.
Whether it is the designer that drafts component specifications, or the operator that bolts the doors to the car body, a day in the automotive sector is never short of drama - facing numerous daily problems and challenges.
Each success story is an important piece of the massive jigsaw puzzle that makes up the automotive industry.
More significant, is the internal satisfaction when, as an individual or as a team, those problems have been solved. It is exactly this bravery, grit, passion and hunger for learning that pushes people towards success.
Whether you are a graduate, skilled technician, school leaver, executive or even a manager – opportunities for personal development and eventual success are everywhere, if you have the traits of a successful person. There are countless literatures written on the success that are due to perseverance, productivity, reading, life balance, health consciousness, etc.
Most importantly, is to always measure success by its value to oneself. This value is not necessarily a monetary equivalent, but should make you feel proud and happy that today was better than yesterday, not just for you, but for those dear to you.
“At first they will ask why you are doing it, later they will ask how you did it”
The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.