The AFG (Automotive Focus Group) held its June networking event at the Marriott Hotel in the Rose Garden Room. This was part of a Joint Chamber event, being hosted by the AustCham Thailand in conjunction with the Austrade arm of the Australian government.
The main speaker was Tom Wilson, an American executive who has spent many years in the Automotive industry, including 41 years with GM worldwide, two years at the NUMMI plant, two years with QOROS (China), two years with CAT in Thailand, and eight months with General Cables.
The title of Tom’s at times amusing address was “My thoughts after 18 years in Asia manufacturing (focus Thailand).”
Tom spoke passionately about LEAN manufacturing and stated that the greatest failure in GM was making LEAN a program and not incorporating it directly into daily life.
At NUMMI, the joint venture between Toyota and GM, Tom was there to help the Japanese understand how to run a plant in America, but instead, Tom found he was learning the Toyota production systems. “Toyota personnel taught me a lot,” he said simply.
Mention was made of the Make Rule – Teach Rule – Keep Rule concept and Tom highlighted the differences between the Japanese and Western approaches to this. The Japanese made few rules but made sure they were followed, as opposed to the Western approach which had many rules but little follow up.
The Japanese were also strong on hands on teaching versus “internet” education. He also spoke on management going down to the shop floor, rather than the Western model of looking at audits.
Comparisons were made between the Chinese approach to manufacturing and the Western approach, and whilst Tom found the Chinese very receptive initially, once total Chinese management took over, the politburo style was stagnating further development. He described this as one of his greatest disappointments.
Management in Thailand was “all about people” and getting used to where in the West, yes is yes, but in Thailand yes does not always mean yes!
He concluded his most interesting address with his tips from 18 years experience in Asia beginning with “Forget the ego – be a team player” and “build sincere bonds and trust”, right the way through to “open communication, be patient, sincere and listen.”
Tom was followed by Frank Holzer, president of the AFG, who ran through some statistics provided by Tractus, showing just where we are, and where we might be headed. It should be understood that Auto is the largest industry sector in Thailand at USD47 billion. However, passenger car manufacturing has slipped from 656,000 in 2013 down to an estimated 362,000 in 2015. One tonne pick-ups likewise down from 2013 343,000 to now 226,000. Growth in the auto industry is now minus 23 percent.
The current regime he describes as a political “intermission” and government spending has resumed, but with exports down 4.7 percent and household debt still at 85 percent of income, these are worrying times.
This AFG meeting was another of the informative monthly events promoted by the AFG. Contact can be made with the AFG through the president: [email protected].