MALAYSIAN car parts manufacturers who have introduced kaizen into their manufacturing processes are achieving higher levels of productivity but more improvement is required before they can be globally competitive, according to automotive experts from Japan.
The experts from the Japan Overseas Development Corpo- ration (JODC), who have been studying the production processes of Malaysian car parts manufacturers for the past one and half years as part of the Roving Experts Programme, said the kaizen or continuous improvement process, was helping these companies make improvement in efficiencies and cut costs.
However, they said, Malaysian companies would still have a long way to go before reaching Japanese or world class levels of efficiency.
There is a big gap and a lot to improve in Malaysia, said Rokuro Nakaji, a JODC consultant expert and 30-year veteran with Honda Motors in Japan.
Nakaji said the improvement might take some time to be effected in Malaysia as there was still much to be done.
Time, however, may not be on the Malaysias side in light of the competitive threats facing the motor industry with the opening of markets under Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) in 2005.
Hiroyuki Kobayashi, an Isuzu veteran who had previously spent 8 years working in Thailand and currently a JODC expert in Malaysia, said the local motor industry still trailed behind Thailand in many respects due to the limited exposure here.
The environment in Thailand was altogether more competitive, he said.
The Thais have had more opportunities to get auto engineering experience as there are a lot more products and model changes there, he said.
There are big players there and also a lot more automotive parts makers.
The state of preparedness of the auto industry for Afta has been a much debated issue of late.
On Tuesday, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said that Proton had informed her of their readiness in facing Afta in 2005. They tell us they are not afraid and are ready to compete. They have had 10 years to prepare for Afta, she said.
Automotive Federation Mal- aysia chairman Aishah Ahmad, who organised the factory visit to companies that have participated in the programme, told reporters she was aware of the need to improve productivity and efficiency of these companies manufacturing processes.
She hoped more car parts manufacturers would join up with the JODC programme, which assists the development of the motor vehicle support industries in Malaysia by the placement of experts from the Japanese auto industry in quality improvement projects in these companies.
So far, 33 companies have participated in the programme, including 11 which are currently involved in its ongoing third phase.
This has resulted in higher productivity and drastically improved efficiency for the process we examined in this programme, said Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, chief executive officer of Hicom DieCastings Sdn Bhd, one of the participating companies.
We hope the discipline will be built among employees as they learn problem solving skills and propel us for better performance in the future.
Another company, Oriental Summit Industries Sdn Bhd, a joint-venture between DRB Hicom Bhd and Thai Summit Auto Parts Industry Co. Ltd, has embarked on a quality improvement project to eliminate an expensive manual checking process in the production of a car component by controlling the overall quality of their preceding processes.
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