Joshua Tan of LVD talks about the company’s Thailand market, the challenges and opportunities they are seeing in the region, and how they are helping customers move to Industry 4.0. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Established in 1952, LVD Group is a sheet metal machinery company, producing laser cutting, punching, and bending machines, as well as software. Founded by Jacques Lefebvre, Marc Vanneste and Robert Dewulf, the family owned company is now being managed by the second generation of the three founding families. Based in Gullegem, Belgium, the company has production facilities in Belgium, United States, France, Slovakia, and China, and is active in more than 46 countries around the world.
In Thailand, LVD has been present for around 35 years now. The company currently has about 12 employees covering sales and marketing, as well as service support for customers in the region.
At the recent METALEX 2019 trade exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News spoke with Joshua Tan, general manager of LVD (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, about the company’s Thailand market, the challenges and opportunities they are seeing in the region, their latest innovations, and how they are helping customers move to Industry 4.0.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR OPERATIONS IN THAILAND.
Joshua Tan (JT): We have sold around 1,100 machines now in Thailand, for which we continue to provide service and support. Right now, Thailand is a bit flat because of certain situations such as the US-China trade war, and then the government infrastructure projects have not been really benefitting the local fabricators or local companies. Our customers are not seeing a lot of projects that are needed for them to invest in more machines.
Nevertheless, Thailand remains a huge market, and a very competitive one. Apart from the European brands, we are now also competing with a lot of Chinese manufacturers who are coming in. Although some are touch-and-go, others are being represented by a lot of different agents.
So, in terms of the competitiveness of the market, I would say it is quite challenging in Thailand. But LVD has been present here for a long time, and we will are still seeing the market on a stable growth mode.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU SEEING IN THE REGION?
JT: In terms of opportunities, the government is still putting investments in infrastructures: ports, airport expansions, highways, and others all over Thailand. With all these investments, we are seeing there’s a demand for machineries to support these kinds of projects. These are opportunities—but we hope this will not be only for a specific country or a specific contractor to benefit from; it should benefit the local players in Thailand.
Secondly, I would say automation. Even though automation in Thailand has already matured, especially in the automotive sector, it is still rather new when it comes to sheet metal machinery. There are still a lot of opportunities for us to get into the automation area—this is also in line with Industry 4.0, where customers actually want to upgrade themselves to this vision. But they don’t know where to start and what to do, so we need to actually go in and make some proposals, and offer them our solutions into Industry 4.0 machines and software.
The third is probably in the telecommunications area. We are now moving from 4G to 5G. When it comes to telecommunications, you need towers and communications boxes—these have to be made by sheet metal machines. With this migration to 5G, I would say there’s an opportunity for the local players to get these kinds of projects, and this will help increase the production for this type of products in the market.
WHAT ABOUT CHALLENGES?
JT: We often encounter customers looking into their budget to invest. Most of the time, they probably do not understand fully what machines can do for them—they would rather look into how much they have and how much they can afford to buy.
In reality, at that kind of budget, they probably won’t get the production capacities that they really need—so they will end up spending more money than if they bought a more-expensive machine that can actually commit to the productivity or efficiency they require. So, this is more about the education of customers, how much information we can provide them, and of course, how much they are willing to invest. And it is understandable—many customers are buying cheaper machines so that they can charge lower for their parts, because it is also a competition between customers. Therefore, when it comes to initial capital investment in machines, it is a very critical decision, and critical cost calculation for them.
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