Thursday, 22 June 2017

BALIK KAMPUNG - The components for a safe, hazard-free journey

Starting from tomorrow, we will experience our annual “balik kampung” exodus. I’m sure that for the last two weeks, Malaysians have been busy preparing for the first day of Syawal, in anticipation of the excitement that will await us as we arrive home to our loved ones.
However, there is one preparation that I believe is of utmost importance, which is ensuring that our vehicles are in the proper and safe conditions as we embark on our journey home before Hari Raya.
As one of the few car-producing nations in the world, Malaysia has come a long way in increasing safety levels of vehicles produced and sold to Malaysians.
Even entry level models, such as the Perodua Axia and Proton Saga are fitted with safety features that qualify them for at least a four star safety ratings.
Nevertheless, just like how our engines require periodic servicing, so must the safety conditions of our vehicles be maintained.
While manufacturers strive to ensure that the car is delivered with the required safety specifications, it is the owner’s responsibility to keep their cars safe and roadworthy.
It is important for note that vehicle safety not just limited to seatbelts and airbags alone, but is rather a system of components working harmoniously to prevent accidents, as well as avoid injury should the worst happen.
Your brakes, tyres, steering, suspension, windshield wipers, and even your horns must play their roles when the moment calls for it. Therefore it is unwise to neglect or delay any repairs when these systems malfunction.
The second component of our journey home is ourselves. While our cars can to be maintained at a pristine, their performance and reliability are far more predictable than our abilities to maintain focus on the road.
My last "balik kampung" journey was a staggering 15 hours. Even at slower speeds, such taxing conditions are a major hazard to ourselves, our families and motorists around us.
The hazards of driving under fatigued or under the influence of medication are well documented. Several advances in the study of sleep have pointed to the occurrence of micro-sleep, or a temporary lapse into sleep or drowsiness between a second to half a minute.
As it takes only a second for an accident to occur, the consequences of micro-sleeping is clear, and the most important thing is to understand the reasons and symptoms of microsleep.
Current studies show that a major contributor to microsleep is sleep deprivation. However, some cases occur while performing monotonous tasks such as, ironically, driving a vehicle.
As the journey to our hometowns is often a family event, the drive should be a family responsibility just as much. In order to maintain focus, switch drivers as much as possible. In fact, don’t make the driving experience a monotonous one. Passangers should be good co-pilots and help keep the driver entertained.
With that in mind, let’s all make this year’s Raya an accident-free celebration. I’d like to wish all my readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and maaf zahir dan batin.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

REFLECTION – Taking a step back for a further leap forward

For me, one of the great blessings of Ramadan is that the structured practices of the holy months resets and realigns discipline in our daily routine.
Last year, during the same time of Ramadan, I wrote on how the practices of Ramadhan served as accelerators in instilling good habits.
For example, the practice of sahur teaches us to utilize early rising times to maximize productivity. The time saved from this efficiency allowed more time to dedicate ourselves to spiritual well-being that manifests itself in the tarawih prayers.
It is amazing how a simple re-enforcement of meal times, seen in the sahur and iftar, suddenly frees our usually busy schedules for life’s most precious things – increased spiritual being, time spent with family, and more.
This year, let me extend this idea beyond the practices, into a macro-outlook of personal enhancement in Ramadan.
As Ramadan transcends beyond the abstention of food and drink, towards a complete cleansing of the soul, it allows us to reflect on ourselves as we break into the months ahead.
When this abstention extends to controlling our anger, speech, appetite, spending and senses, we are in better positions to take a step back and reflect on our qualities and characters. This is a true benefit for all – individuals, business entities, communities, or just students of life.
This translates into meaningful opportunities for self-improvement and personal development.
In this context, this meaningfulness derives from the very fact that true progress is a product of true reflection – yet true reflection is difficult to achieve when we merely react to immediate phenomenon.
It is meaningful, as the design of the fasting practice creates that time and space for us to take a bird’s eye view of our internal systems and characteristics, and make major shifts towards positive being.
The great thinkers of yesteryear are often romanticized through the depiction that their personal enlightenment was a result of a step back into solitude in order to review one’s past to reshape himself or herself towards personal progress. The story of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) interaction with the first Quranic verses is a classic example.
The key takeaway is that major change is a product of realignment of thought, culture and values. Perhaps, as a society, we can utilize the holy month to look at ourselves and look into what we value, and where our strengths, as well as weaknesses, lie entrenched within.
Undoubtedly, the last few years have seen the rise of the marketplace of ideas within the Malaysian society. It is clear that we all want progress, however the values we keep or discard in order to achieve such progress requires reflection.
This Ramadan, let us all take a step back with patience, open mindedness and a willingness to change. With this in mind, let’s all reflect on how, as a nation, we can achieve higher levels of success, and remain competitive in a world where values and virtue can easily be eroded due to the nature of competition.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

ADVANTAGES - Vendors can benefit from Proton-Geely partnership

Just like any large industry, the success or failure of the automotive sector is the dynamics of an entire supply chain or network.
Naturally, any major change will prompt even more changes within the supply chain.
When Proton announced is partnership with Geely recently, many were quick to point out how this would affect the local supply chain.
Some even spoke of extreme devastation of local business - that we’d lose everything to foreign powers, remain slaves of our own economy and so on.
Some say the government would swoop in to assist all vendors, and there would be no cause for concern at all.
Let’s just ignore the extreme ends of the spectrum and focus on the middle ground.
Firstly, let's address the elephant in the room – would there be any impact on the vendors?
The short answer is yes. However, before we throw our arms in the air and cry foul, allow me to clarify what those impacts are.
The Proton-Geely partnership may be a first step in the right direction for the national brand, but from the government’s standpoint, it is a continuation of our journey towards a globally competitive automotive industry.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP2014) has, since its announcement, made supply chain development and competitiveness a key ingredient to balance our need for growth and creating choice for the consumer.
Last year, exports of parts and components reached RM 12 billion, demonstrating our growing competitiveness and participation in the global value chain.
Therefore, the impact to vendors is simple – those who are competitive have a better chance at expanding their markets, something that may have not been possible since the national car maker started losing their market share.
Whether or not the impacts are positive, the good news it is now ever more in the full control of the vendors, and not limited to the challenges of low volumes.
At the end of the day, we are in business.
True entrepreneurs know that business relation is merely a byproduct of knowledge and capabilities, and not the other way around.
As local vendors, we have the massive advantage of logistics, and as operations are still within our borders, the only thing that will hamper our efforts are our capabilities.
A wise man once gave me an interesting analogy on business. To bake a good cake, it needs a good recipe, a good mould for shape, and good baking equipment. Anybody can buy baking equipment and bake the cake, not many can make the mould, and fewer can create a delicious recipe.
A good recipe is rare, but baking equipment is replaceable. To remain competitive, be the person who holds the recipe. Finally, would you rather have a small cake to yourself, or take a portion shared from a bigger cake?
Let’s not forget this is not the first time a national carmaker established a foreign partner. More than a decade ago, many predicted the demise of local vendors when Perodua entered into a partnership with Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd.
Today, all seems to be happy with their annual production volumes and Perodua is buying from the local vendors at a total amount of RM4.5 billion a year.
The key to staying relevant is to know what your customers want.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

STRATEGIC TIE-UP - Proton partnership - Difficult but necessary step

Last week was a roller coaster for those who follow the Malaysian automotive industry. After more than a year in suspense, Proton finally announced its foreign strategic partner, China's Zhejiang Geely Automotive Co Ltd.
Although this was a business decision made by DRB-HICOM and Proton, it was natural to see a lot of emotional attachment to the national brand. Some felt we were letting go of national pride, while others felt it was time for Proton to chart its own destiny.
As a member of the automotive fraternity for the past 30 years, Proton’s story will always be that bittersweet journey.
If Proton’s establishment created excitement for a nation when it launched the Saga more than three decades ago, imagine the feeling of those inside the factory walls of both original equipmeny manufacturers and component manufacturers.
The tough tides of the industry were not only present in economic recession.
Uncertainty just made situations worse. A vehicle is assembled from thousands of parts – each requires specification, rigourous testing, tooling, many processes and the quality management associated with their life cycle.
If just one part or process comes up short, the vehicle would not be complete.
My brothers and sisters in the industry knew exactly what we all were getting into. The engineering levels were strict, the expectations of both company, customer and consumer were high.
The hard work put in never guaranteed success as a better competitor, a miscued investment or a line drawn in error could destroyers all our efforts.
The question to ask after almost three decades in the industry, is why are we here?
The answer is simple – we heeded the call to be part of a sector of high technology, one that would push us towards higher value, and place us on the global map as carmaker.
A year ago Proton hit that crossroad. The government decided that it was time to spread our wings and fly on our own. Up to that very moment, more than 600 parts and components manufacturers hired more than 250,000 people directly in the automotive talent pool.
While Proton created business and jobs, and developed its models of high safety ratings within its own walls, that didn’t seem like it was enough to break our glass ceiling.
Perhaps its time to ask ourselves, what did we do right?
If you ask me, a lot that Proton did was right. Proton pushed us into industrialisation and created many jobs and businesses in high level manufacturing.
When the Waja was fully developed in-house, we created a full-fledged national carmaker.
Fast forward to last year, Proton was able to launch four new models within 12 months.
The next step has to be making the right choice. Nissan, Renault, Hyundai, Kia, General Motors, Peugoet and Citroen, to name a few, have all had to make this difficult before us. Now is just our turn to do the same.
The aforementioned carmakers still retain their national identity and more importantly - are on the global map.
To achieve a better future, we needed to take a step in the right direction, despite our nostalgia for the way things were.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.