The fourth-largest economy in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s Department Of Statistics recorded that the country’s May 2017 manufacturing sales continued to record a strong growth of 19.5 percent, rising to RM61.9 billion (US$14.4 billion) as compared to RM51.8 billion (US$12.06 billion) reported a year ago.
Q: Could you describe the present state of the sheet metal industry here in Malaysia?
Norbert Seo (NS):In the sheet metal industry, the last couple of years have been very stable. We are starting to see that customers are getting more orders, especially in the semiconductor and oil and gas industries. In general, I am very confident that Malaysia is showing signs of growing.
Q: What are the biggest challenges for metalworking businesses to position themselves apart?
NS: The sheet metal laser cutting is a very mature market. Customers and suppliers alike are looking for more sophisticated solutions involving more automation. As such, we are aiming to be a solution provider, such as for automated production lines.
At the Metaltech show, we showcased the Observer, a software tool that shows the status of the machine in real time. This program is able to show how the machine is cutting, as well as the order and maintenance status; these all can be now checked online on a smart device.
For example, if you are away from the machine, and if you see something wrong on the machine, you can stop the machine immediately with your mobile phone. This gives you ample opportunity to be flexible and be independent from your working station.
Another trend is high-powered laser technology. Last year, we showed our high-performance 10 kW fibre laser at the Euroblech show in Hannover, which can cut aluminium and stainless steel up to 30 mm thick and mild steel up to 25 mm. The machine is also able to clean-cut mild steel up to 15 mm thick.
Q: Do you see any customers in Asia Pacific adopting increasingly automated solutions?
NS: Yes, we see a clear trend in Australia, Korea and Japan where automated solutions are being increasingly adopted. In Southeast Asia, jobs are getting more complex, while prices are remaining competitive.
Such jobs typically require more time, and in order to do finish the jobs on scheduled, more workers need to be hired to do more shifts. But consider that salary and personnel costs can be avoided if automation systems are used.
Q: Could you share with us a success story of one of your customers?
NS: We have one customer in Penang who started around 12 years ago with one of our machines. He now has six machines from us, including two press brakes. We have been providing support to him all this while. I cannot reveal any specific numbers, but this manufacturer is still investing heavily in manufacturing facilities by buying new land and building even more factories.
APMEN Sheet Metalworking, July 2017