Interview with Mr Kamlarp Sirikittiwatn, President, Volvo Group (Thailand)
On 1st March, UD Trucks launched Croner, an all-new medium duty truck, to continue its rich Japanese legacy of building the “truck that the world needs today”, specifically for its growth markets across Asia, Africa, Middle East and South America.
Croner is marketed as a reliable and versatile truck range built with robust and quality components delivering extra productivity and superior uptime. Named after the god of time in Greek mythology, Croner is engineered to help customers stay ahead of competition by focusing on timesaving.
“This means Croner spends less time in the workshop and has less maintenance and servicing requirements. Equipped with high-end telemetry, the new Croner makes every moment count, which maximises productivity and minimises downtime on every run our customers make,” explains Mr Kamlarp Sirikittiwatn, President at Volvo Group (Thailand).
In this interview with Supply Chain Asia, Mr Sirikittiwatn shares Volvo Group Truck business, his thoughts on the supply chain and logistics industry in Thailand and the region, as well as his opinions on the talent management in Asia.
Can you share with the readers Volvo Group Truck business units?
Volvo Group has quite a few business areas and business units. When it comes to the trucking business, Volvo has four groups – Volvo trucks, UD trucks, Mack trucks and Renault trucks. Our latest truck, Croner, comes from UD.
The business strategy behind acquiring the different truck brands is because different markets have different demands. We need to make sure that we have the right brand and trucks to meet the various needs of each individual markets. For example, for the Thai market, we use UD and Volvo trucks. While UD trucks are more focused to provide the needs of the daily commodity, general cargo, and construction businesses, Volvo trucks meet the requirements of mining, heavy haulage, and dangerous goods transport with ADR standards. The group has an annual production capacity of 4,500 Volvo trucks and 20,000 UD trucks in Thailand.
Unfortunately, Thailand truck market has been on the decline over the past few years (for third year straight, 11.2 per cent y-o-y to 15K units). Why is that?
The figures reflect a typical local economy. In 2015, the market declined, but then it showed positive growth for 2016. Last year, the heavy duty segment has increased by seven per cent, while the medium duty segment increased by 10 per cent, which is a positive signal from the market.
The main reason for the much-improved market is the healthy local economy, coupled with the increase in infrastructure and construction projects initiated by the Thai government.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges for the road freight industry in ASEAN?
It depends on the different individual countries. In reference to the logistics business as a whole, the main problem is efficiency. This is why when we develop our products, we have to focus on improving efficiency. This means Croner spends less time in the workshop and has less maintenance and servicing requirements. Equipped with highend telemetry, the new Croner makes every moment count, which maximises productivity and minimises downtime on every run our customers make.
Another major challenge is employing the right driver. Let’s face it, the driver will ultimately spend more time with the truck than with his or her family. It is more than knowing how to drive, but also how to operate the truck in the most efficient and safe way. It is also our responsibility to ensure drivers are properly trained. Also, if we look at Croner, it has an automatic transmission option that can be crucial for markets like South Africa where it is facing serious driver shortage due to the strenuous demands on drivers, especially in long haul driving. We can help to attract new blood to our industry by providing them with an option that boosts ease of drive and reduce fatigue for both the experienced and inexperienced drivers.
Ultimately, I believe that being a truck driver is all about embracing that feeling of responsibility. Think about it, you are driving a big truck, so you are responsible to drive safely and not cause danger to the society. In addition to not adopting risky driving behaviour, you must also know how to operate the engine in the best way possible way to enhance its efficiency capabilities.
If you compare Thailand’s infrastructure with other emerging markets, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, how would you rate it? Why?
Compared to Vietnam, in my opinion, Thailand’s logistics infrastructure is slightly more advanced. But sometimes, I feel it does not matter how good an infrastructure is. The transport operators must know how to operate their businesses and emphasise on how to drive their trucks efficiently and manage their warehouses successfully. Afterall, building a good infrastructure is about building good roads. It is not difficult for countries to catch up in that aspect. But for the transport operators to change their operations to work better and more efficiently is the headache.
You started your career in Volvo as a sales engineer. Can you share with us how Volvo helps local talent like yourself up the ranks?
Volvo is an international company offering a lot of opportunities to its employees. When you do your job well, you have a chance to move to other capacities to manage new tasks and step out of your comfort zone. That is the main talent development plan for Volvo. When you are good in a certain area, then it is time for you to learn to take up new responsibilities.
For example, I started as a sales engineer presenting solutions to customers after graduating from Chulalongkorn University in 1999. Then I extended my career to fleet sales including the sales to Vietnam and Myanmar, before becoming the General Manager of Commercial Vehicle for Thailand in 2008. After 2011, I was promoted to the Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for Asia Oceania Sales (AOS) Region China based in Beijing, and then moved to the position of Vice President of Sales and Retail in Thailand.
Tell us a bit more about yourself outside of Volvo.
I do play golf. I enjoy it, but I will never be good at it. I cook too. What you can find on the streets of Thai markets, I can make it. It may be nothing fancy, but when I am busy at work and I want to do something hands-on at home, then I will cook.