Thursday, 31 August 2017

MERDEKA DAY CELEBRATION - Appreciating value of sovereignty and sacrifice

This year is one of those rare occasions where National Day and Hari Raya Aidiladha is celebrated back to back with each other. Despite its differences in religion and nationalism, the philosophies behind each celebration bear much correlation with each other.
While achieving independence has been a fundamental victory for us as a nation, the ideals of sacrifice has been enshrined through the Quran such as of the Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail which related symbolically to the hardship faced by our forefathers in bringing us the freedom we have enjoyed for the past six decades.
As citizens of Malaysia, we all have our responsibilities towards the development of our nation. Each generation, however, will have its own challenges which require sacrifice to bring us all to a higher level of independence compared to those who went before us, thus paving the way for even higher heights.
As a result of the efforts of previous generations of Malaysians, we now live in a country with an economy that is envy of the region.
From a generation that came out a times where ethnic diversity was an issue, each generation thereafter has progressed our nation to a point where opportunities for high value employment and business are aplenty.
Sure, there are problems and new issues to address. However, the key difference has been our drive to work on our problems in a peaceful and civilised manner.
This has indeed heightened our meaning of independence.
Today, our fight for independence is no longer from colonisation, but for the freedom from reliance on others to excel at the global stage.
To be an advanced nation, aspiring automotive nations like Malaysia need skilled workforce that is capable of independent technology development, which in turn will bring even more high value businesses and jobs to our shores and help us achieve our high income nations.
Independence also means having the foresight to understand future trends. Better still, be at the forefront of technological advancement, trade and investment, and set those trends for others.
This is of course easily said, but is a huge task to realise.
Nothing is impossible. We were told half a century ago that getting where we are today was impossible. What made us as independent as we are today? The answer is – sacrifice.
Modern times no longer need sacrifice of life like the stories of the Holy Book. However, as our lives become much more fulfilled with technology, the more we need to sacrifice in order to achieve the progress levels we desire.
Automation has transformed our duties and chores, leaving us more space to relax and neglect thinking about the future and focus on the superficial things that are a product of our increased purchasing power.
It sometimes polarises our thinking, leaving us unwilling to move beyond our preconceived notions and norms, suppressing our capacities in creativity, innovation and abilities to learn.
Modern sacrifice is the ability to shed our complacencies by sacrificing our play time to make way for meaningful activities that develop us not just as individuals, but progressive societies and nations.
This week, let us remember the struggles of our Prophets and forefathers. We would not have come this far if not for their grit, wisdom and sacrifice.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

MALAYSIA AUTOSHOW 2017 - Motoring ahead in energy efficiency mode

The International Motor Show Germany (colloquially the Frankfurt Motor Show) was introduced in 1897, in a time when "production" automobiles were gaining popularity around the world. It was born in the period where Karl Benz, attributed as the developer of petrol powered automobiles, had only introduced motorised vehicles to the world in the prior decade or so.
The show grew from less than ten cars on display to become the world's largest motor show it is known for today, and has emerged a trend setter for global automotive production. It's no surprise that Volkswagen, a brand native to Germany, also happens to be one of the biggest vehicle producers in the world by volume.
Half a century later, the Tokyo Motor show was first held in 1954. Interestingly, in its early years the show more prominently featured commercial and two-wheeler vehicles.

That changed when Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry initiated a plan to draw attention to passenger cars by announcing its national car project, which focused on the development of four seater cars at a price range affordable to the public.
It perhaps set the foundation for the cost-effective cars that roll out of Japanese production lines to this very day.
Today, many countries host their own motor shows. Whether public or private ventures, they are purposed not just as sales outlets, but centres to sell ideas and cultures.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP2014) focuses on making Malaysia the regional hub for Energy Efficient Vehicles, or EEVs. To become an EEV hub, it is not only about design and production, but also public buy into the idea of energy efficiency.
This direction was set based on the government's forecast and analysis of global consumer trends in the decades to come, as the world's population demands for cost effective transportation grows exponentially.
While the government has received tremendous support from original equipment manufacturers and industry players towards the EEV direction, it is important to also receive public buy-in and support for energy efficiency at all levels.
last year, 42.8 per cent of vehicles registered in Malaysia were EEVs, signalling growth at all levels.
This November signals the third year of the government's involvement in the largest autoshow on the Malaysian calendar. The Malaysia Autoshow 2017 will continue to spur growth of the culture of energy efficiency, through the various programmes and activities planned at the event. This year, the government is aiming to attract 200,000 visitiors, and to maximise its potential, decided to move this year's show to the vast grounds of the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS).
With less than three months of preparation left, I hope everyone is ready to be part of an autoshow that will surpass the expectations of the nation. The Malaysia Autoshow will continue to be the pinnacle of energy efficiency and sustainable mobility in the years to come.
Most importantly, cost effective transportation is not limited to the cars we drive. It is a culmination of product design, manufacturing, maintenance and sound consumer decisions. The Malaysia Autoshow 2017 is designed to this end - a display of Malaysia's automotive culture and future direction, all in the same space.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

FRONTIER OF FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION - Developing high-value automotive design culture

While a developed nation is measured by sovereign or per capita income levels, it is also common to look at the industrialisation level and infrastructure within a country to gauge the status of development.
More often than not, developed nations are characterized as having a strong critical mass of creativity and innovation. While some flaunt the abilities to reach outer space or develop culture changing telecommunication devices, other industrialized nations boast the ability to produce world class education or globally exported quality agro products.
Regardless of core industry, businesses and professionals within these advanced ecosystem tend to have full control of their creative processes – they are able to innovate and bring in solutions to their internal problems, and have the capacity to design the processes, equipment and materials needed to implement those solutions.
Since gaining independence two weeks short of 60 years ago, our nation has seen tremendous economic development. It is safe to say that in comparison with many of our counterparts in the region, we have developed a comfortable middle income economy and a track record of participation in higher value activities. We are blessed with business and job opportunities that provide us the power to gain upward social mobility.
It is now the era to breach our glass ceiling and aggressively participate in more upstream activities. The simple truth remains – the wages of the few individuals whom design the world’s smartphones are a significant portion of product costs, and the remaining are distributed among the thousands that assemble those phones.
Malaysia has embarked in domestic vehicle production for more than three decades now. However, we are still in our teens when it comes to product design capabilities, perhaps slightly wiser in process development.
Proton’s first in-house model, the Waja, was only introduced in the year 2000, merely 17 years ago.
While we have seen some success in the full-fledged design capabilities of our national car project, we have also learned that design capabilities are not a function of individual creativity alone, but also business scale and human capital depth.
Here is the catch – having design capabilities is not as simple as purchasing computer aided design software. It is not just for the designer to draw his dream, and give his team a nightmare.
Design is a mental and physical process and methodology. It requires understanding of mechanical, electronic and chemical function. It requires knowledge or materials, manufacturing process and cost efficiency. Most of the time design teams comprise of people from a large array of disciplines. At the same time, it is also important to procure prototyping capabilities for physical models to be developed, and to better visualize the designed products.
Naturally, the investments involved in setting up design capabilities are massive. Apart from workstations, automotive design requires a large selection of specialized equipment to perform testing and validation of the materials, parts and components developed.
With this in mind, developing design capabilities are a risky venture, not just for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), but even more so for the hundreds of automotive parts and component manufacturers that exist in our ecosystem. It is noteworthy that these companies also happen to be small and medium enterprises, with limited resources.
I hope this industry conundrum will see the beginning of its end this week. Last Monday, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) launched the MAI Design Center (MAIDC), located in Rawang, Selangor, and it was purpose built to address this very issue. The centre is established to cater to six of the nine core thrusts of MAI’s Industry 4.0 implementation plan for both OEMs and vendors within the automotive industry.
The MAIDC, a collaboration between MAI and Perodua, is fully equipped with 65 workstations for product, tooling and engineering design and simulation. The centre also boasts large surface plates, milling gantries, clay ovens and spray booths to facilitate full scale clay model fabrication. There are also a full range of different sized 3D printers and will soon see a Virtual Reality (VR) design system in place.
Above all, the MAIDC is an important milestone to create higher value careers and job opportunities within the automotive industry. It is time for us to take the next step towards braving the frontier of the fourth industrial revolution.
“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

MALAYSIA AUTOSHOW - Helping consumers understand EEV solutions

One of the key ingredients to successful automotive industry development is a policy framework that balances the needs of the industry with the needs of the populace.
During the automotive industry’s infancy, government policy was formulated to allow space for industry growth. As the priority at the time was for a wide array of manufacturing processes to be turned into local business.
During this period, transitioning from an agrarian nation towards higher levels, i.e. the establishment of a manufacturing of factories, tooling capabililities and large scale logistics, were virtually impossible without a “pull factor”.
Local businesses were incentivised to increase investment in high precision manufacturing through the establishment of Proton, Perodua and others.
These projects would create the demand for manufacturing companies to exist within the ecosystem, especially to provide employment to the many graduates that were seeking technical positions.
Fast forward three decades, 27 original equipment manufacturing (OEMs) and more than 700 vendors later, the automotive industry has reached a point where industry challenges have evolved. The world’s consumers have developed a higher consciousness of transportation costs, environmental friendliness, and technological acumen – all within the norms of globalisation and economic liberalisation.
In 2008, the General Motors (GM) bore the brunt of such consumer mindset change. The energy crisis during the mid-2000s reduced domestic demand for GM’s fuel consuming sport utility vehicles and pick-up truck, in the search for more energy efficient alternatives. It took a large government bailout and product restructuring exercise to bring GM back to profitability.
History has shown that these “pull factors” have the power to make or break entire industries.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP2014) was formulated to create the balance mentioned above, but tailored to the new nuances of the current market scenarios. With energy costs seemingly fluctuating, it is timely that the local industry respond to the needs of the global consumer.
This is one of the main reasons the NAP2014 is focusing on the development of Energy Efficient Vehicles (EEVs) – these are products that address the demand for cheaper, environmentally friendly technology in the cars we produce.
In order to reach the needed scales of success, exportability of both vehicles and automotive components is a key tenet of the NAP2014.
Here is where it gets tricky – in order to export we must establish a local base, i.e. our local businesses must sell energy efficient products within our small market first before any chance of export success can materialise. At the same time, we can no longer afford to implement strong protectinist policies, it comes at a high cost to consumer choice and goes against international trade principles.
Henceforth comes the point of this article.
The current scenario requires the shift of the pull factor from OEMs to the consumer. The rise of energy costs have created an opportunity for the industry to solve the problems of the populace through the EEV direction – and one hurdle is for consumers to understand how these solutions can improve their lives.
It is for this reason the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) is continuing the tradition of organising the Malaysia Autoshow. The 2017 edition will be held from the 9th to 12th November 2017 at the and Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) and aims to develop awareness through an immersive experience for consumers on the benefits of EEVs.
This year’s Autoshow is expected to be the biggest automotive exhibition and symposium, occupying all three halls and outdoor spaces of MAEPS.
Global brands exhibiting their latest models, especially Energy Efficient Vehicles. Visitors can test drive models and there will be special packages for car buyers at the show to process hire purchases on-site.
There will be automotive lifestyle exhibitions, go-kart slalom, off road drives and many more.
Parallel to the Autoshow will be the KL International Automotive Symposium. The symposium will discuss the major issues of the industry, including autonomous vehicles, electric mobility, intelligent transport system and Industry 4.0. It is expected to draw more than 4,000 participants with more than 30 international speakers.
It is my hope that the Malaysia Autoshow will continue to enhance consumer awareness on sustainable mobility, and emerge as the most anticipated event in the regional automotive calendar.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

INDUSTRY 4.0 - Understand market forces and anticipate changes

On Tuesday, the Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) hosted the Latin American Business Day to bridge business, trade and investment ties between Malaysia and the Latin American nations.
I had the privilege to share my thoughts as a panel speaker for the Automotive track. I talked about the direction country’s automotive industry, in particular the expansion beyond our region. The bigger honour, however, was the opportunity to gain insights from those around me. I would like to share what i had learned.
One of the key evolutions we can expect to see in future business deals is the way transactions are conducted. In the past decade, the world saw tremendous gains in e-commerce activities, exemplified through the emergence of giant entities such as Amazon and E-bay.
These cyber-businesses transformed retail beyond purchasing convenience, and revolutionised purchasing decisions, behaviour and mindset.
Consumers grew to be more informed on the choices they had.
While the playing field became more accessible and transparent, it also gave birth to the logistics nightmare of door-to-door retail – consumers didn’t need to leave their houses to receive their purchases.
Such is the tide of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). When immersive connectivity is thrown into the business foray, even large companies can dissipate without any signs.
The next mile of Industry 4.0 would most likely shift to the supply chain. We are seeing signs that global sourcing will soon find its way to the same revolution. Imagine a future where carmakers source for components in an Ebay-style bid.
At the Latin American Business Day, I learned that the importing of automotive spare parts through e-commerce channels have gained popularity among workshop owners.
In anticipation of the future, the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) and International Trade and Industry Ministry are addressing nine core thrusts to allow Malaysian businesses to flourish. These thrusts form the fundamental structure of the MAI Intelligent Technology Systems (MITS).
One of the key challenges is the management of big data. Businesses will need to quickly respond to various consumer, manufacturing and after sales data.
MAI has set up a High Performance Cloud Computing server in its headquarters in Cyberjaya, as well as connected servers in Kuala Lumpur and several locations around the world.
Big Data will encompass the entire breadth and depth of supply chain activity. The computing power mentioned above is connected to several systems that cater to the difference disciplines that make up the automotive industry.
Process development is now made more responsive through MAI’s System Integrator and Manufacturing Execution System. The need for quicker decision making in Production planning, procurement, sales, marketing and financial management is addressed through MAI’s Enterprise Resource Planning and Integrated Industry Information System.
Consumer behaviour can now be understood better through MAI’s Telematics program. Motorists also participate through applications developed by MAI such as MAGIS, Carbengkel and MyAutoApp.
To date, eight out of nine Industry 4.0 thrusts have been developed. The ninth - Augmented Reality - is expected to be implemented next year.
Malaysia’s automotive industry is merely around three decades old. For me, the biggest lesson we have learned is that resisting change and market forces is a last thing we should do. We should focus on predicting and anticipating change before it happens.
The future is essentially about understanding market forces. To compete, we must know our customers’ needs and reflect them quickly in our supply chain.
The only thing that is constant is change. True power is in those who know what will change and react quickly.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI).