Interview with Mr Tee Seng Chuan, Managing Director, KION South Asia and Executive Director, Linde Material Handling
According to a new market reserch report published by MarketsandMarkets™, the automated material handling equipment market is expected to be valued at US$48.31bn by 2023, rising at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.8 per cent between 2017 and 2023. The report also mentions robots accounting for the largest share of the automated material handling equipment market in 2016. These results show the importance of technology and innovation adoption in the industry, and companies need to get on board in order to keep up with the competition. Linde Material Handling understands this, which is why the company is fully invested in innovation.
“For Linde Material Handling, continuous product innovation is the lifeline of the company. We invest in lots of market studies and researches to ensure that we remain the trendsetter in the market. Take the example of Linde Robotics where we have the series production driverless forklifts using SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology,” says Mr Tee Seng Chuan, who double-hats as Managing Director, KION South Asia and Executive Director, Linde Material Handling.
In this issue of Supply Chain Asia, Mr Tee shares his thoughts on the current mergers and acquisitions (M&A) landscape, the company’s operations in the region, and the talent situation in the industry.
According to your bio, you have more than more than 20 years of experience in the industrial products and solutions market. What is it about the industry that makes you stay?
This journey has been really interesting for me as I have always represented top brands in the market. It is my job to upsell the product or solution to maximise the value. This interesting challenge is what keeps me in the industry.
You are currently handling two portfolios. Can you share how the two roles overlap each other?
While we have operational synergies in these entities, they are structured quite differently to accomplish the different goals we have in the market.
KION South Asia is a platform to support the KION Group multi-brand approach into the markets. Here, I ensure that Linde, STILL and Baoli brands are well represented in the markets through various channel to market. While there are sometimes competition between brands in the market, there are also joint efforts between brands to win in the market.
My portfolio in Linde Material Handling is to lead direct sales and service operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. In this capacity, I have to ensure that we are able to serve our end-customers according to their needs in the full value chain – whether it is about new or used forklifts, sales or rental, and contracted service or ad-hoc service.
KION recently acquired Dematic. Is the company looking at more M&A opportunities? Can you comment on the increasing number of M&A in the supply chain & logistics industry?
While I cannot comment on KION’s future M&A opportunities, it is clear that as the industry matures with many fragmented players in the market, there will need to be further consolidation. The key drivers for such M&As include sales channel or market coverage expansion, product or solution portfolio enhancement, and economies of scale to be more competitive in the market.
How does Linde Material Handling stand out from its competitors?
Linde Material Handling is often recognised as having the most innovative and best performing forklifts in the market. This is due to the long standing track record of having unique selling points in the product design, which translates into advantage and benefits for the end-customers above and beyond the market standards.
This includes productivity increase, energy savings, safety, ergonomics and comfort, where Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) aspects are becoming more important today and in the future for the supply chain and logistics industry.
Can you share more about Linde’s operations in the region?
Since our company originated in Europe, we have several production facilities and R&D centres in Europe. In Asia Pacific, our regional headquarter is in Xiamen, where we have an established production facility and R&D centre established in 1993. This facility mainly caters to the needs of the Asia Pacific market as well as emerging markets around the world. Linde is well represented in most countries across Asia Pacific via direct entities as well as channel partners.
How important is innovation adoption for Linde?
For Linde Material Handling, continuous product innovation is the lifeline of the company. We invest in lots of market studies and researches to ensure that we remain the trendsetter in the market. Take the example of Linde Robotics where we have the series production driverless forklifts using SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology.
Another example would be the use of new and renewable energy, including Li- Ion, Fuel Cell and even hydrogen driven forklifts.
We generally do not meet many Asians in very senior executive roles for European companies. Can you share how you rise to the top?
I believe that it starts from the company culture where we try to promote from within the organisation and to have local talents running the business as much as possible. Personally, I believe that proven track record of strong execution, commitment to the company and the overall cultural fit are important elements for any company and KION Group is no exception.
How would you describe the talent situation in the supply chain industry? In your honest opinion, are there sufficient talent here?
Supply chain is quite a broad industry and within it is an area of material planning, procurement and handling/ logistics. Honestly, I think that there is limited organised education and industrial training on this subject matter. Most of the knowledge are acquired through years of experience in the work life – learning by doing to be more specific. Therefore, most ended up being generalists as opposed to specialists in the industry.
With more of supply chain operations being managed autonomously, what must the next generation of supply chain talent offer to remain relevant?
I believe that everyone in the supply chain operations needs to continuously move up the value chain and perform value-added tasks as opposed to repetitive tasks which can be automated. The next generation of supply chain talents would need to continuously combine operational know-hows with top technologies (both hardware & software) in solving problems. Whoever can provide solutions that are scalable and flexible, and yet customisable for specific applications, will win in this competitive landscape.